South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea. Photo: Reuters / Kim Hong-Ji

In the second such incident since mid-November, a North Korean soldier reportedly defected to South Korea on Thursday morning through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two countries.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) says the incident sparked gunfire from troops on both sides as the North’s border guards neared the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in pursuit of the fugitive, according to a report by Korea JoongAng Daily.

No damage or injuries were reported on the southern side of the DMZ.

JoongAng says the low-ranking soldier, equipped with an AK-47 assault rifle, made his defection bid at 8:04 a.m. South Korean troops reportedly fired about 20 rounds of ammunition at 9:24 a.m. when North Korean guards were seen approaching the MDL.

North Korean soldiers didn’t immediately react. But the JCS says they later fired “several” rounds at 10:13 a.m. and 10:16 a.m.

A North Korean soldier defected to the South in an incident at the MDL in the Panmunjom truce village on November 13. The defector was wounded by North Korean guards when he made his escape and shots were also fired by both sides. The northern soldier was rescued by South Korean troops and is recovering at a local hospital.

Pyongyang has made no official statement on either defection.

South Korea’s military is reportedly investigating the North Korean soldier’s motive for escaping.

In a separate case, two North Korean civilians were discovered by the South Korean Navy in a small wooden boat 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of the Dokdo islets Wednesday morning.

The pair told South Korean officials that they wished to defect, according to the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

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