North and South Korea exchange fire as another soldier defects

A “low-ranking” North Korean soldier reportedly crossed the heavily-fortified land border and defected to South Korea Dec. 21, South Korean military officials said in a Yonhap News Agency report.

The incident did not spark a dramatic rescue like the one that captured international attention in November, when a North Korean soldier fled the country amid a hail of gunfire, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The latest soldier — believed to be around 19-years-old — to defect reportedly showed up in front of a guard post around 8:04 a.m. under a thick fog, the Joint Chiefs told Yonhap News.

Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. (Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.)

At 9:30 a.m., South Korean troops reportedly fired around 20 warning shots at North Korean border guards who approached the military demarcation line and appeared to search for their soldier, a South Korean official said.

Troops from North and South Korea were believed to have fired shots, according to military officials.

Read More: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

This would be the fourth defection by a North Korean soldier this year, the Joint Chiefs said to Yonhap News.

The defector in November — identified by his last name “Oh” and believed to be 24-years-old — was shot at least five times as he made his escape. US troops airlifted the defector by helicopter from the South Korean side of the border and transported him to a nearby hospital, where is he said to be recovering.