PANMUNJOM, Korea, Nov. 27 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo on Monday visited the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the Panmunjom truce village, the stage of a dramatic defection by a North Korean soldier earlier this month.
Bullet traces from shots fired by North Korean guards as they tried to stop their follow soldier sprinting toward South Korea on Nov. 13 remain vividly apparent in the southern section of the JSA.
In an unprecedented move for the South's defense chief, Song toured the JSA guard unit's second observation post right next to the military demarcation line (MDL), which marks the inter-Korean border.
He viewed the defector's route across the MDL in person, as U.S. Army Col. Steve Lee, secretary of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC), briefed him on the details of the incident.
The minister lauded South Korean and U.S. troops at the JSA for taking "very appropriate" measures in response to the rare defection of a North Korean soldier via Panmunjom.
The defector apparently attempted to cross the MDL by military jeep. When his vehicle got stuck in a ditch, he jumped out of it and dashed toward the South trailed by fellow soldiers firing gun shots.
He collapsed after being hit five times. A team of South Korean guards crawled on their stomachs and pulled him to safety.
The minister stressed the JSA troops responded calmly to the situation and successfully managed it.
"The JSA is an area operated as the venue of negotiations for South-North dialogue under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Command since the establishment of the Armistice Agreement," he said, adding that it is different from general outposts.
He was apparently mindful of criticism that the South's troops should have responded with fire, or at least warning shots, as the North's soldiers sprayed bullets, some of which flew over the MDL.