DMZ news: Shots fired after North Korean soldier defects to South

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North Korean soldiers
North Korean soldiers keep watch as U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his South Korean counterpart Han Min-Koo (both not pictured) visit the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, November 1, 2015. (REUTERS/Korea Pool/Yonhap)

Shots were fired at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that serves as the border between North and South Korea after a North Korean soldier defected to South Korea on Thursday.

The soldier reportedly appeared in thick fog at a checkpoint between the two nations and walked across the heavily armed border around 8 a.m. Soon after, North Korean soldiers approached the border apparently looking for the defector.

South Korean soldiers responded to the approach of the rival soldiers by firing around 20 warning shots at around 9:30 a.m. More than half an hour later, gunfire was heard from the northern side of the border, but it was not clear if it was retaliatory fire. No bullets were found to have crossed the border.

The defection of the low-ranking soldier took place in the province of Gangwon, located in the northeastern part of South Korea.

The incident marks the fourth time that a North Korean soldier crossed the heavily guarded border to defect from the closed, authoritarian country. This recent defection is relatively peaceful compared to the dramatic scene that occurred at the demilitarized zone a month ago, when an intense escape of a North Korean soldier was captured on camera.

During that incident the soldier drove a military vehicle toward the border before crashing into a tree. He then proceeded in a desperate dash across the border, while being blanketed by gunfire from North Korean soldiers.

The defector was shot five times during his escape before South Korean forces dragged him to safety. The soldier survived his wounds and is currently recovering after undergoing multiple surgery.

In a separate incident, South Korean authorities found two North Korean men on a wooden boat off the country’s east coast Wednesday. The defectors asked to resettle in the South.

Since the Korean War that took place from 1950 to 1953, around 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea, mostly via China.