Report Details Actions Taken By US Army Soldiers to Save the Life of North Korean Soldier Shot While Defecting to South Korea

The Stars & Stripes has a good read about the actions the American medical evacuation team took to save the life of the North Korean soldier who defected across the Joint Security Area and was shot five times by his comrades:

From left to right, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Gumm, pilot; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Tirro, co-pilot; Spc. Carroll Moore, crew chief; Sgt. 1st Class Gopal Singh, flight medic; and Pfc. Karina Lopez, radio operator, pose at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

The crew had just returned to Camp Casey, a base near the heavily fortified frontier that divides the peninsula, after a more than three-hour training mission when radio operator Pfc. Karina Lopez told them to stand by for a real mission.

After initial confusion about whether the team was needed, Lopez got the call at 4:04 p.m., about an hour after events had begun to unfold, and the team took off five minutes later.

“That’s when I started … calling the hospital, trying to figure out which hospital they were going to take him to,” said the 20-year-old from Raleigh, N.C.

Singh and his teammates had only basic information that somebody had suffered a gunshot wound to the torso at the Joint Security Area. But that was enough for concern.

“I was in Iraq and Afghanistan … that’s what you expect there,” said Gumm, the 37-year-old pilot. “Here you’d expect a concussion or the other types of missions that we’ve had, not a gunshot wound to the torso. So it was surprising.”

It took about seven minutes to get to Camp Bonifas, the base near the JSA, where more than a dozen people met them carrying the wounded soldier on a stretcher in a chaotic scene.

“We had to kick some people out of the helicopter,” said crew chief Spc. Carroll Moore, 25, of Lenoir, N.C., adding there was only room for two escorts from the security battalion.

Singh, 39, of San Antonio, said he immediately spotted signs that a lung was in danger of collapsing so he did a needle chest decompression, with a 3.5-inch needle. He also worked to stop the blood from hemorrhaging.

The defector, who was in and out of consciousness, asked for water at one point, but Singh said he couldn’t have any because of the nature of his wounds.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the whole article at the link, but great job by everyone involved to save this defectors life.

North Korean JSA Border Guards Reportedly Punished for Allowing Defection

I was a bit surprised that the North Korean guards at the JSA did not try to go across the MDL and drag the defector back across and maybe that is what the Kim regime expected them to do as well:

North Korean border guards gather at the JSA after defection of one of their comrades.

suffered acute embarrassment on November 13 when a border guard fled first by jeep and then on foot across the joint security area (JSA) with South Korea.

The defector, identified only by his surname Oh, sped in a jeep towards the South before losing control and crashing into a ditch. He sprinted the final few metres as North Korea guards opened fire.

Now those border guards are believed to be taking the full force of Kim Jong-un’s fury for the incident – with all believed to have lost their positions.

Yonhap News, a Seoul-based news agency, believes all border guards have been replaced at the border in a huge security overhaul.

And they said an intelligence source had told them the guards were also in danger of cruel punishment at the hands of Kim’s security agents.

The unnamed source told the agency: “Signs were detected that North Korea has replaced all border security officials following the defection.  [UK-Express]

You can read more at the link, but imagine some very senior Kim regime officials are displeased with this defection and people will be held accountable for letting it happen.  In addition the soldier’s family will be held accountable as well for his defection and are probably already in a labor camp somewhere as punishment.

North Korean Soldier Who Defected Across the DMZ Will Survive, But Was In Very Poor Health Before Being Shot

The North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea across the JSA will live.  However, his poor medical condition before he was even shot is drawing increased scrutiny in South Korea:

The revelation that the man had a severe parasitic infection — Lee said he had never seen such a case except in medical textbooks — and that his stomach contained raw corn kernels prompted widespread shock in South Korea. North Korean front-line soldiers were supposed to be elite troops, yet this man had worms not seen in South Korea since the 1970s and had been eating uncooked corn?

Oh also has tuberculosis and hepatitis B, Lee said. And, at 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 130 pounds, he is several inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than the average male 18-year-old South Korean.

There is intense interest in the soldier, and military intelligence officers reportedly are eager to question him about his escape, but Lee has been fending them off. The soldier is showing signs of depression and post-traumatic stress, and it will take about a month before he is well enough to answer questions, the doctor said.  [Washington Post]

You can read the rest at the link, but just think there are 25 million people in North Korea with probably many other bad health conditions which will need to be considered in a unification scenario.

By the way the soldier’s trauma surgeon Lee Cook-jong is a bit of celebrity in South Korea:

This is not Lee’s first time in the spotlight. The surgeon became a national hero in 2011 when he saved the life of a ship captain who had been shot by Somali pirates.

After pirates seized a chemical freighter near the Gulf of Aden in 2011, South Korean commandos stormed the ship and the pirates shot the captain six times during the rescue attempt.

Lee was waiting at a hospital in Oman and saved the captain’s life, earning a reputation as the country’s leading trauma surgeon. There was even a popular medical drama based on this story, “Golden Time.” The title was a reference to Lee’s frequent reminder that it is the hour after a severe injury that is most important for saving someone’s life.  [Washington Post]

Tweet of the Day: North Korean Soldier Defector Drove Chinese Jeep

Joint Security Area Soldiers Presented ARCOMs for Rescuing North Korean Defector

This will probably be an award these soldiers will remember for the rest of their lives considering the unusual circumstances leading to the award and who presented it to them:

In recognition for their efforts in rescuing a North Korean defector, Nov.13, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea commander, awarded Joint Security Area Soldiers the Army Commendation medal, during a ceremony Nov. 23.

Awardees are Sgt. 1st Class Noh Yeong Soo, Sgt. 1st Class Song Seoung Hyeon, Sgt. Robert Hartfield, Maj. Jeffery Schmidt, Lt. Col. Kwon Young Hwan, and Lt. Col. Matthew Farmer  [USFK Facebook]

You can watch video of the award presentation at this link on the USFK Facebook site as well.  Basically the soldiers received an ARCOM because they were able to pull the North Korean defector to safety while at the same not escalating the situation or violating the armistice like the North Korean soldiers had already done.

United Nations Command Decides To Not Release Footage of North Korean Defector’s Escape

My guess on not releasing this footage may be that the UNC does not want to rub it in the face of the Kim regime that one of their soldiers defected when they have been quiet recently:

The United Nations Command has put off a plan to release video footage of a North Korean soldier’s dramatic escape across a jointly patrolled area in the heart of the Demilitarized Zone.

The soldier defected to the South on Monday by driving a military jeep to the line that divides the peninsula, then rushing across it under a hail of gunfire from his former comrades.

The defector was severely wounded by the gunfire and has been hospitalized. His doctor, Lee Guk-jong, told reporters his condition was stabilized after a second operation on Wednesday, but he was riddled with parasites that were complicating his recovery.

Officials with the UNC, which is commanded by U.S. Army Gen. Vincent Brooks and has authority over the Joint Security Area, said earlier this week they would make public footage from surveillance cameras that monitored the border dash.

But the UNC issued a press release Friday summarizing already-known facts of the case and saying it will not release more details or material until an investigation is completed.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.

North Korean Defector Shot While Crossing the DMZ Now Trying To Survive from Roundworm Outbreak

This is pretty disgusting that the North Korean soldier that defected to South Korea recently through the Joint Security Area had an 11-inch worm pulled out of his intestine:

A North Korean soldier shot multiple times while defecting to the South is in a stable condition but riddled with parasites that could complicate his chances of survival, his doctor said Thursday.

The soldier dashed across the border at the Panmunjom truce village on Monday, as former comrades from the North opened fire on him, hitting him at least four times.

He was pulled to safety by three South Korean soldiers who crawled to reach him, just south of the dividing line.

The young man was rushed to hospital in South Korea by helicopter where he has undergone two rounds of emergency surgery.

“Vital signs including his pulse are returning to stability”, attending doctor Lee Cook-Jong told journalists.

However, he warned, the un-named soldier could rapidly deteriorate at any moment.

“We’re paying close attention to prevent possible complications,” said Lee, who on Wednesday said “an enormous number of parasites” including roundworms had been found in the small intestine.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 20 years as a physician”, he said, adding the longest worm he removed was 27 centimetres (11 inches).

Parasites, especially roundworms, are widespread in North Korea — as they are in many developing countries — where people eat uncooked vegetables that have been fertilised with human faeces, experts say.  [AFP]

You can read more at the link.

North Korean Soldier Tried to Defect By Driving Car Across the DMZ

This would have been the first ever defection by car that I know of if the North Korean soldier turned defector was able to pull this off and drive a car across the DMZ:

A North Korean soldier who defected to South Korea via the truce village of Panmunjom earlier this week drove a car to the area, the authorities said Tuesday.

“(He) then exited the vehicle and continued fleeing south” across the military demarcation line (MDL) after being shot by North Korean troops, according to the United Nations Command (UNC).

The individual, presumed to be a North Korean soldier, “initially took cover near a building on the southern side of the JSA,” the UNC said, using the abbreviation for the Joint Security Area (JSA).

Four North Korean soldiers chased him, firing shots with their pistols and AK-47 rifles, an official at the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, citing CCTV footage of the scene.

He was hit by five rounds while running away from the North in the area inside the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ), he added.

It’s also unclear whether the North’s troops actually crossed the MDL, even for seconds, during the hunt. (……)

The car sped towards a guard post but its wheels fell into a nearby drain, the JCS spokesman Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon said earlier. At the time of the defection, the soldier was clad in the Korean People’s Army uniform and had no weapon, he added.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

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