To live your entire life under the oppressive North Korean regime must be terrible. To endure the tasks asked of you as a member of the country’s armed forces, to live in poverty conditions, to serve a dictatorial maniac. Years of oppression, even under the threat of death, caused this as-yet-unnamed twenty-something soldier to defect from his post and head due south for the demilitarized zone, and freedom. You can watch the escape as it transpires, thanks to this closed-circuit television footage released by United Nations Command. Fair warning, the footage is a bit graphic in that it depicts the young man getting shot multiple times as he orchestrates his escape.
The video begins with a General Purpose (Jeep) military truck making its way along a wooded road and crossing a long bridge, known as the “72 Hour Bridge”. The truck appears to be either a Russian-built UAZ-469 or the Chinese-version of that same model, the BJ2023 (literally Beijing Jeep), both of which are ubiquitous among the North Korean forces.
During his escape, the soldier’s Jeep got lodged deep in a ditch, and he was forced to flee on foot. A number of his former compatriots chased after the man, shooting in attempts to bring him down. He was hit five times, primarily in the arm and shoulder, though did suffer two non-fatal abdominal wounds.
According to this report from the Washington Post, North Korean soldiers violated the armistice agreement by first firing across the border into the DMZ, and a second time by one soldier chasing the defector across the DMZ border before retreating. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the head of the U.N. Command, responded, “The armistice agreement was challenged, but it remains in place.”
The injured soldier was brought down by the bullet wounds, laying against the side of a building for nearly 40 minutes while South Koreans orchestrated an extraction. He was then flown by U.S. Black Hawk helicopter to Anjou Hospital where the surgeon expects him to make a recovery.
In addition to the bullet wounds, the soldier was reportedly stricken with intestinal worms, hepatitis B, and blood poisoning. Additionally, he is showing signs of severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Aside from that long list of ailments, he is conscious and breathing on his own, but remains in intensive care.