SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — North Korea is believed to have replaced all border security guards following a North Korean soldier’s recent defection to the South via a jointly controlled area at the tense border, an intelligence source said Thursday.
A North Korean soldier was shot and wounded by his fellows Nov. 13 when he sought to cross the heavily guarded inter-Korean border to defect. The replacement seems to be a response to their failure to deter his escape.
“Signs were detected that North Korea has replaced all border security officials following the defection,” the source said. “Given this situation, commanders of the responsible military unit and senior officers might have undergone punishment.”
The United Nations Command (UNC) said Wednesday that North Korea clearly violated the 1953 Armistice Agreement twice last week when its border guards tried to hunt down the soldier fleeing to South Korea via the truce village of Panmunjom.
The defector drove a jeep southwards in an apparent bid to cross the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), but exited the vehicle near the border after its wheel seemed to come loose, according to a video clip released by the UNC.
Four armed North Korean guards chased the defector, who tried to dash toward the South. He was shot five times and some of the gunshots flew over the MDL. A North Korean guard also crossed the MDL for a few seconds and then returned to the North’s side.
It was a rare defection through the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that bisects the two Koreas, where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face.
The intelligence source also said that North Korea appears to have temporarily closed the so-called 72-hour bridge, over which the defector drove the jeep at high speed to reach the northern side of the JSA.
The source added that the North is apparently tightening its screening of forces coming in and out of the DMZ.
Meanwhile, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the UNC commander, awarded the Army Commendation medal to six U.S. and South Korean soldiers in recognition of their efforts to rescue the defector, according to the U.S. Forces Korea Facebook page.
Three members of South Korea’s JSA security battalion forces — a deputy commander and two noncommissioned officers — crawled on their stomachs to recover the wounded defector lying against a wall. Brooks said Wednesday that the battalion personnel’s actions were appropriate.