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Originally published Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 5:15 PM

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North Korea urges vigilance as soldier defects to South

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged vigilance from the security ministry on the same day that a North Korean soldier fled across the Demilitarized Zone after reportedly shooting his platoon and squad leaders.

Bloomberg News

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SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged vigilance from the security ministry, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on the same day a soldier in his army shot two officers and defected to the South.

"The Ministry of State Security has a very important duty to perform to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation," KCNA quoted Kim as saying Oct. 6 while viewing a statue of his late father at the ministry.

A North Korean soldier fled across the Demilitarized Zone at around noon the same day, after shooting his platoon and squad leaders, South Korea's defense ministry said. Six gunshots were heard before the North Korean was seen to run over the border in the western part of the peninsula, and the soldier was being questioned by a joint team of related agencies, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No unusual activity by the North Korean military had been noticed since the desertion, Yonhap said.

North and South Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a treaty.

The last time a North Korean soldier escaped across the Demilitarized Zone was in March 2010, Yonhap reported. The division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel is 155 miles long and 2 miles wide, according to NASA.

More than 2,700 North Koreans fled to the South last year, raising the total number of defectors from the regime to 23,100 as of the end of 2011, according to the most recent estimate from the South's Ministry of Unification in January.

Kim became head of the totalitarian state in December, after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled the secretive nation from 1994 to 2011.

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