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defections

North Korean soldier shot while defecting to the South in critical condition

A North Korean soldier who was shot multiple times as he defected to South Korea is in critical condition but is expected to survive, the South Korean government said Tuesday.

On Monday, the soldier was driving in a vehicle alone when he started to speed toward the border, South Korean military official Suh Uk said. A wheel came off the vehicle, and he had to jump out and run to the border. North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at him, and he ended up taking cover behind a South Korean structure inside the demilitarized zone. He was ultimately saved by South Korean and U.S. soldiers, who brought him over the border.

The soldier underwent several surgeries on Monday, and Suh said when he arrived at the hospital, he was unconscious and couldn't breathe on his own. He sustained intestinal damage, and doctors have removed five bullets from his body so far. The soldier was unarmed, and his uniform showed he held a lower rank, Suh said; they are still trying to determine where he is from inside North Korea. This is the first time since 2007 that a North Korean soldier has defected across the Joint Security Area, Reuters reports.