Shots, chaos at Korean border
A North Korean soldier has defected to South Korea, the second soldier to do so in six weeks, Seoul's defence ministry says.
And two more North Koreans, in this case civilians, defected to the South on Wednesday by boat, the South Korean Ministry of Unification announced.
The low-ranking North Korean soldier safely defected after he was spotted by South Korean soldiers using surveillance equipment as he crossed the midwestern part of the heavily militarised land border in thick fog and made his way to a guard post, a ministry spokesman said.
No shots were fired at the time, he said, but South Korean troops later fired around 20 rounds from a K-3 machine gun to warn off Northern guards who approached the border apparently looking for the man.
Seoul's Defence Ministry says the motive for the defection is under investigation.
It is the second such defection across the heavily-fortified border in the space of six weeks, and the fourth by a soldier this year.
On November 13, in the most dramatic defection in recent times, North Korean soldier Oh Chung-sung raced toward the border in a jeep before crashing and fleeing on foot as his colleagues followed on foot.
The 24-year-old was hit by bullets five times before being dragged to safety by South Korean border guards.
The two civilians who defected on Wednesday had their rickety, engineless boat detected by a Navy patrol in the Sea of Japan (called "East Sea" in the both Koreas). The two then expressed their desire to defect.
Meanwhile, Mr Oh continues to recover from his injuries in Seoul: he was saved by quick-thinking surgeons after being felled in a hail of bullets.
South Korean surgeon Lee Cook-Jong told CNN doctors faced a battle to save him, and discovered his body was filled with tapeworms, some of which were up to 27cm long.
"Everything was stained with blood, but the parasite was basically a really white colour and this thick, big, long and very, very hard, this kind of thing was getting out from his bowel system," Dr Lee said.
The defector is also battling tuberculosis and hepatitis B and is traumatised following his escape. He will have scars and lifelong complications after his colon was shredded by a bullet and had to be repaired in seven places.
His defection route across the DMZ and Joint Security Area (JSA) is rare but not unheard of. The JSA is the only part of the DMZ where soldiers from each side face each other. The border is among the most fortified in the world.
The developments bring this year's total for the number of people defecting directly to the South to 15, a Joint Chiefs of Staff tally showed - three times as many as in 2016.
In June, a North Korean soldier surrendered to a soldier from the South while two others defected via the DMZ in September 2016 and in June 2015.
Two KPA (Korean People's Army) soldiers also defected in 2012.
About 30,000 North Koreans have fled repression and poverty in their homeland to reach the South over the decades since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, with 1,418 doing so last year according to Unification Ministry data.
The vast majority go first to China, with which the North shares a long border, and where they face the risk of being repatriated to an uncertain fate if caught. They travel on to the South later, often via another country.