A North Korean soldier defected to the South through the Demilitarized Zone after killing his platoon and squad leaders, according to an official at South Korea’s defense ministry.
The soldier crossed the western part of the military demarcation line around noon today, the official said, asking not to be identified because of military policy.
Six gunshots were heard before the North Korean was seen to run over the border, Yonhap news agency reported. The man is being questioned by a joint team of related agencies, Yonhap said, citing South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
North Korea and South Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice rather than a treaty. No unusual activity by the North Korean military has been noticed since the desertion today, Yonhap said.
More than 2,700 North Koreans fled to the South last year, raising the total number of defectors from the communist regime to 23,100 as of the end of 2011, according to the most recent estimate from South Korea’s Ministry of Unification in January.
The last time a North Korean soldier fled across the Demilitarized Zone was in March 2010, according to the Yonhap report. The division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel is 250 kilometers (155 miles) long and 4 kilometers wide, according to NASA.