North Korea’s Kim Urges Vigilance on Day Soldier Flees to South

N. Korean Soldier Defects Across DMZ After Killing Two Officers
A Dec. 27, 2011 file photo shows the Gyeongui Line road from the South Korean side of the border with the North. Source: Kyodo via AP Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged vigilance from the security ministry, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on the same day a soldier in his army shot two officers and defected to the South.

“The Ministry of State Security has a very important duty to perform to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying Oct. 6 while viewing a statue of his late father at the ministry. A North Korean soldier fled across the Demilitarized Zone at around noon the same day, after shooting his platoon and squad leaders, South Korea’s defense ministry said.

Kim became head of the totalitarian state in December, following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled the secretive nation from 1994 to 2011. He took the country’s top rank of marshal in July, the final step to secure his power as leader of the impoverished nation’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces. The promotion came days after Kim sacked veteran army chief Ri Yong Ho, in the biggest publicly revealed power shift since his succession.

South Korea’s government and the U.S. have agreed that the Asian nation will extend the range of its ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers (500 miles) from the previous limit of 300 kilometers, according to a statement yesterday on the presidential Blue House website. The move will enable South Korea to better respond to threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, said Chun Yung Woo, senior presidential secretary, said at a briefing.

‘Fierce Struggle’

“The security men should wage a fierce struggle against the enemies,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. He also called for incorporating modern information technology into state security, the report said. KCNA did not mention the defection in its report.

Kim has named economic development as the socialist country’s top focus, in a departure from his father’s so-called “military first” policy, which prioritized defense issues.

North and South Korea remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a treaty. Six gunshots were heard before the North Korean was seen to run over the border in the western part of the peninsula, and the soldier was being questioned by a joint team of related agencies, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. No unusual activity by the North Korean military had been noticed since the desertion, Yonhap said.

More than 2,700 North Koreans fled to the South last year, raising the total number of defectors from the regime to 23,100 as of the end of 2011, according to the most recent estimate from the South’s Ministry of Unification in January.

The last time a North Korean soldier escaped across the Demilitarized Zone was in March 2010, Yonhap reported. The division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel is 250 kilometers (155 miles) long and 4 kilometers wide, according to NASA.

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