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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 15)

2017/11/15 07:12

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Chaos on the border

We are disappointed at the way our military reacted to the shootings on Monday by North Korean guards at a fellow soldier who defected to South Korea through the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom. The JSA is a tense area where South and North Korean soldiers confront each other face-to-face, day after day.

All channels for dialogue are currently cut off between Seoul and Pyongyang after North Korea’s relentless development of nuclear weapons and missiles. As a result, an emergency can spiral out of control in the JSA at any time. In such volatile conditions, it is troubling that North Korean guards shot numerous rounds at the soldier trying to defect.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the defector drove a car into the northern side of the JSA before approaching an area just 10 meters (33 feet) from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). He got out of the car and ran. In that short period of time, four North Korean soldiers shot as many as 40 rounds at him.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff says that North Korean security guards fired toward the southern area of the JSA. If so, the bullets they fired should obviously hit our section. In addition, North Korean soldiers could have fired rifles and pistols when he was trying to cross the MDL. If our soldiers had been positioned nearby, they might have been shot. We wonder what our military did even when North Korea made a serious provocation again by violating the decades-old cease-fire agreement in the tense border.

The defector is in critical condition with at least five wounds to his chest, abdomen and shoulder. The Joint Chiefs of Staff says that our officers and soldiers at the JSA were watching the whole process of his defection through surveillance cameras. What were they really doing when the defector received multiple gunshots from North Korean guards?

   Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo allegedly received a report about the incident from the Joint Chiefs of Staff one hour later. Can our military really react swiftly to any emergency in the border area? We urge the top brass to get to the bottom of the case involving North Korean soldiers shooting at a fleeing defector and come up with measures to prevent such a mishap in the future.

(END)

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