North Korea fortifies border after soldier defects

South Korean Defense Minister says North Korea violated ceasefire agreement by firing at defecting soldier.

Chana Roberts,

North Korean flag
North Korean flag

North Korea fortified the section of its border where one of the country's soldiers defected earlier this month.

Civilian workers dug a trench and planted trees where the soldier abandoned his vehicle in a shallow ditch before crossing the border to South Korea. The escape, caught on camera, shows the soldier being shot five times before collapsing in a pile of leaves near the wall, where he was rescued by South Korean forces.

After losing over half his blood before reaching a South Korean hospital, the soldier is currently in stable condition.

In addition to digging trenches, North Korea replaced almost all of the soldiers stationed along the border. According to one report, the soldiers were replaced as "part of a punishment for failing their mission to deter...the soldier's escape."

The soldier, identified only by his surname of "Oh" is the third DPRK (North Korean) soldier to defect this year.

On Monday morning, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said North Korea "violated the ceasefire agreement between the two countries" when North Korean soldiers fired at a defector who fled through the demilitarized zone between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Syrian media reported that Syrian Social Affairs and Labor Minister Rima al-Qadiri met North Korean Ambassador Jang Myong Ho last week to discuss enhancing bilateral relations. The report quoted Jang Myong as saying his country "wanted to help [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad's regime with reconstruction efforts."

In August, a North Korean shipment intended for Syria's chemical weapons program was intercepted, making it the second such shipment in six months. In a report submitted to the UN Security Council in August, UN experts wrote that they were "investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK. Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another Member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria."

According to a 2016 report by the US Congress' Congressional Research Service, "Syria continues to rely on North Korean and Iranian assistance for its missile programs."

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