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Originally published Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 4:03 PM

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North Korean soldier defects to South Korea across border

The soldier shot his platoon and squad leaders before crossing into South Korea.

The Associated Press

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SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean army sergeant killed two of his superiors Saturday and defected to South Korea across the countries' heavily armed border in a rare crossing that prompted South Korean troops to beef up their border patrol, officials said.

The soldier shot his platoon and squad leaders before crossing the western side of the Demilitarized Zone, a Defense Ministry official said, citing the soldier's statement after he was taken into custody by South Korean border guards.

The official, who declined to be named, said South Korean guards heard six gunshots before the North Korean soldier crossed the border. He also said the soldier used a loudspeaker to let South Korean guards know his intention to defect after the killings. The official said the motive behind the defection was unclear.

No unusual military movement was detected on the North Korean side of the border after the crossing, but South Korea immediately instructed border troops to step up their guard, a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. He also declined to be named.

There was no immediate comment from communist North Korea's state-run media.

Defections across the land border are rare, though North Koreans occasionally come to the South by boat. Last year, a North Korean civilian defected to the South across the land border. The last defection across the Demilitarized Zone by a North Korean soldier occurred in 2010, officials said.

More than 24,000 North Koreans have arrived in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The area where Saturday's defection took place is along the route to a South Korean-financed industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, officials said.

Associated Press writer Sam Kim contributed to this report from Busan, South Korea.

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