With a North Korean solider remaining in critical condition from multiple gunshot wounds he suffered as he dashed across the border to defect, some South Koreans are questioning why the South Korean soldiers did not provide covering fire for him.
Four North Korean soldiers at the Joint Security Area inside the heavily fortified border zone fired about 40 rounds at the escaping solider. They shot southward. It is unclear whether they continued to shoot after the solider entered the South’s territory. South Korean soldiers rescued him only after the shooting ended.
The soldier, whose rank and identity have not been disclosed, underwent a second surgery Wednesday at a hospital south of Seoul. The surgery was “successful,” but he is still in a critical condition, according to doctor Lee Cook-jong, who performed the operation.
Military officials and analysts in Seoul said the military’s refrained response was the right move, given that the US commander assumes operational control in the JSA and any small-scale conflicts run the risk of escalating into an all-out war.
“I think our soldiers did a pretty good job,” South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo told lawmakers on Tuesday. “They made a good judgment call to minimize the risk and deal with the North Korean soldier appropriately.”
They have given the North Koreans a carte blanche to fire with impunity.