North Korea soldier shot crossing DMZ 'will not die,' physician says

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Nov. 22, 2017 at 9:16 AM
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Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The North Korean soldier who fled to the South last week has regained consciousness as he suffers from stomach parasites and bullet wounds, a South Korean physician said Wednesday.

Lee Guk-jong, the South Korean doctor who has been treating the defector at Ajou University Hospital in Gyeonggi Province, said the patient has been responsive and watching South Korean television, Joongang Ilbo reported.

Lee and his medical team said the soldier, identified only by his surname Oh, will need another month of recovery before he is fit to be investigated by local authorities.

"The patient will not die," Lee told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday, according to Yonhap.

But the South Korean physician also said the patient's injury from being shot as he fled across the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea is "serious," and that Oh may need to undergo a mental health evaluation.

The defector, 24, is showing symptoms of depression, Lee said.

"We will decide on the transfer and treatment of the patient after consultation with the relevant institutions," he added.

The United Nations Command released a video of Oh's daring escape on Wednesday, filmed as the defector drives toward a North Korean checkpoint, runs into a ditch, abandons the car to make a run for the border.

The footage includes images of bullets being fired in the defector's direction, and, at one point, shows South Korean soldiers risking their lives to bring the North Korean soldier to safety.

Lee said Wednesday Oh has been answering basic questions about his escape, and has disclosed information about the sports utility vehicle he typically drove in North Korea while on duty.

The car, a Hyundai Terracan or Galloper, can be found in "large numbers" in Kaesong, Oh said, according to the JoongAng.

The cars are being used in North Korea with the Hyundai logos removed, the former soldier said.

Oh also said he wants to study law in the South and responded positively to South Korean popular culture, including a K-pop music video featuring the group Girls' Generation.

Oh said he enjoys the 2008 action film Transporter 3, and likes the works of Hollywood actors Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman, according to the report.

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