Nine days ago, a North Korean soldier managed to make his way across the border between North Korea and South Korea, one of the most dangerous stretches of land in the world. The daring escape was all caught on video — and that video is now public.
As the 10-minute video below shows, the 24-year-old solider known only by his last name, Oh, drove his car at a high speed toward the border and then took off on foot. Four North Korean soldiers chased after him, shooting at the defector about 40 times and hitting him five times. It was the first North Korea defection over the border in about a decade.
After he was shot, the defector collapsed against a wall on the South Korean side. South Korean troops crawled to his side, rescued him, and took him to a hospital in the nearby town of Suwon.
One North Korean soldier briefly stepped over the border, but the rest stayed put, for good reason: It’s illegal to cross the border, and would likely be seen as a sign of war by both South Korea and the US, which has 28,500 troops in the country.
The defector regained consciousness on November 21. He proceeded to ask hospital staff to turn on the TV in order to prove he was in the South. Doctors went so far as to hang up a South Korean flag in his room.
Hundreds defect from North Korea every year, but they usually go northward into China. This is the first North Korean defection over the demilitarized zone — as the inter-Korean border is known — since 2007.
The escape is a scene of hope: A North Korean defies all odds in search of a better life. But at the same time it’s a jarring reminder of just how dangerous the North-South relationship remains.