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  1. ITV Report

Dramatic video shows escape and shooting of defecting North Korean soldier

A North Korean soldier has been seen racing for the border in a vehicle and then on foot before his former comrades shoot him at least five times as he limps into South Korea.

The defection will be a huge embarrassment for the North, which claims all defections are the result of rival Seoul kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. Pyongyang has said nothing about the defection so far.

North Korea's actions during the defector's November 13 escape at Panmunjom violated the armistice agreement ending the 1950-53 Korean War because North Korean soldiers fired across and physically crossed the border in pursuit of the soldier, US Colonel Chad G Carroll, a spokesman for the UN command, told reporters.

A soldier fires at the jeep before it crosses the 72-hour bridge. Credit: UN Command

The video, released by the US-led UN command, shows the soldier speeding down a tree-lined road, headlights on, past dun-coloured fields and shocked North Korean soldiers who begin to run after him.

He crashes the jeep into a ditch near the line that divides North and South and the blue huts familiar to anyone who's toured the area.

The jeep heads to the border crossing moments before crashing. Credit: UN Command

Soldiers from the North sprint to the area, firing handguns and AK rifles - about 40 rounds, the South says - at the defector; one hurries across the dividing line before running back to the northern side.

South Korean soldiers then crawl up to the defector, who has fallen injured in a mass of leaves against a small wall. They drag him to safety as North Korean troops begin to gather on their side of the line.

An infra-red image shows South Korean soldiers crawling to the victim. Credit: UN Command

A UN Command helicopter later transported him to the Ajou University Medical Centre near Seoul.

Surprisingly, North and South Korean soldiers did not exchange fire in the first shooting in the area in more than three decades. In 1984, North Korean and UN Command soldiers traded shots when a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of Panmunjom. Three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier were killed.

About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. A North Korean soldier defected via Panmunjom in 1998 and another in 2007 but neither of those events involved gunfire between the rivals.

Col Carroll said the North violated the armistice by "one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL temporarily", referring to the military demarcation line that bisects the Koreas.

A North Korean soldier realises he is crossing the border line. Credit: UN Command

A UN Command statement said officials notified the North's military of these violations and requested a meeting to discuss the investigation results and measures to prevent future such violations.

Panmunjom is inside the two-and-a-half-mile-wide Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that is jointly overseen by the American-led UN Command and by North Korea. Guarded by mines, barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides, the DMZ is the world's most heavily fortified border.

South Korean soldiers stand guard at the joint security area of Panmunjom. Credit: PA

After undergoing two surgeries last week to repair internal organ damage and other injuries, the soldier is now conscious and no longer relies on a breathing machine, according to hospital official Shin Mi-jeong.

While his condition is improving, doctors plan to keep him at the intensive care unit for at least several more days to guard against possible infections.

While treating the wounds, surgeons removed dozens of parasites from the soldier's ruptured small intestine, including presumed roundworms that were as long as 27cm, which may reflect poor nutrition and health in North Korea's military.

The soldier is 5ft 7in tall but weighs just 60kg.