World

N. Korean soldier who defected is expected to live

SEOUL: A North Korean soldier is expected to survive critical wounds he received when his old comrades fired a hail of bullets at him as he made a defection dash to South Korea, the South's government and military said yesterday.

On Monday and in a four-wheel drive, the soldier sped towards the border in a "peace village" in the demilitarised zone.

But when a wheel came loose, he fled on foot as four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at him, said Mr Suh Wook, chief director of operations at South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Until this morning, we heard he is unconscious and unable to breathe on his own, but his life can be saved," Mr Suh said, adding that surgeons had removed five bullets from the soldier's body, leaving two inside.

The soldier took cover behind a South Korean structure in a Joint Security Area.

South Korean and US soldiers, fearing more North Korean fire, later crawled to him to rescue him, the United Nations Command said.

North Korea has not said anything about the soldier, and its military did not give any indication of unusual movements yesterday, the South's military said. - REUTERS

North KoreaFiredoctor