South Korean soldiers near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas. Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je
South Korean soldiers near the Demilitarized Zone. Questions now hover over their alliance with the United States. Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je

South and North Korean soldiers avoided shooting at each other in a dangerous incident at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom on Monday involving a defecting North Korean soldier who was wounded by northern bullets as he was crossing to the South.

The incident took place at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides the two adversaries at a time when military tensions are unusually high due to an escalating nuclear crisis with Pyongyang.

South Korean police, in a separate incident, arrested an unidentified American on Monday for attempting to enter a restricted zone in a border area dividing the two nations in an apparent bid to enter North Korea, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The US man, identified only as a 58-year-old man from Louisiana, reportedly arrived in South Korea last week and is said to have wanted to enter North Korea for “political purposes.” He was apprehended after being reported by a local villager, according to Yonhap, and is currently being questioned by South Korean police, military and intelligence officials.

Korea JoongAng Daily said the defecting North Korean soldier was wounded at around 3:31 p.m. Monday by fellow North Korean soldiers who were trying to get him to stop. He was reportedly shot in the shoulder and elbow. He collapsed about 50 meters south of the military demarcation line (MDL) in the Joint Security Area and was retrieved by South Korean soldiers.

JoongAng said South Korea soldiers didn’t fire back during the incident because the North’s bullets didn’t cross over into the South.

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