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Wounded N. Korean soldier regains consciousness: officials

2017/11/21 19:56

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SEOUL, Nov. 21 (Yonhap) -- The North Korean soldier who was severely injured while defecting to the South last week has regained consciousness, officials here said Tuesday.

South Korean government officials said the soldier is awake after he underwent two major surgeries at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul.

"The soldier has regained consciousness and he requested to watch television," the government official said on condition of anonymity. "For the soldier's psychological comfort, we've shown the patient South Korean movies and he has recovered enough to watch television."

   The soldier was shot five or six times in the elbow, shoulder and abdomen by North Korean border guards as he ran across the border and through the truce village of Panmunjeom last week.

"The defector is able to express his thoughts to medical staff," the official said. "At this moment, we think that the patient has overcome a serious condition."

   To help stabilize the soldier's psychological condition, medical staff have apparently hung the South Korean national flag in his hospital room, according to the official.

"The defector is suffering from fear and heavy stress from the gunshots that wounded him," the official said. "To give psychological comfort that he is in South Korea, the medical staff apparently placed the South Korean flag in the patient's room and are also treating him through psychotherapy."

   Although there were media reports that the patient has identified himself as a 25-year-old soldier surnamed Oh, South Korean military officials denied such report, saying that they have yet to interview the soldier and verify his identification.

Meanwhile, Lee Cook-jong, who conducted the surgery on the North Korean, reportedly plans to have a briefing on his patient's condition on Wednesday. Following Lee's advice, South Korea's joint interrogation team is expected to question the soldier three or four days later, according to the official.

The official said the United Nations Command (UNC), which is in charge of the probe, is consulting with the South Korean military about releasing a CCTV clip and even a footage from a thermal observation device that shows the defection.

This composite image represents a North Korean soldier defecting to South Korea via the Joint Security Area on the inter-Korean border. (Yonhap) This composite image represents a North Korean soldier defecting to South Korea via the Joint Security Area on the inter-Korean border. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr

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