A North Korean soldier who defected to South Korea via the border village of Panmunjeom on Monday had driven a car to an area near the military demarcation line that divides the two Koreas within the enclave, the South Korean military said Tuesday.
The soldier drove the car to an area near a guard post on the North Korean side but its wheels got caught in a drain, prompting him to run across the demarcation line, a senior official of the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a news conference.
The soldier, who was transported by helicopter to a hospital after being found bleeding from gunshot wounds some 50 meters south of the demarcation line, remains in critical condition, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing the hospital where he is being treated.
Late Monday, the U.S.-led United Nations Command issued a statement saying that the North Korean soldier left the vehicle and "continued fleeing south across the line as he was fired upon by other soldiers from North Korea."
The defection took place on Monday afternoon in the Joint Security Area, a small strip of land in the truce village where troops from both sides stand face-to-face.
Defections via the border village have reportedly taken place twice before, in 1998 and 2007.
Panmunjeom is a small enclave where an armistice effectively ending the three-year Korean War was signed in 1953.