The Army has come under some criticism this week after a third North Korean soldier made it across the DMZ, pretty much undetected. Worse still he couldn't even find anyone to surrender to, and ended up knocking on the door of a (South) Korean barracks and asking to give himself up:
The North Korean soldier whose defection last week across the heavily armed border revealed serious problems with South Korea's border defense turned himself in at the barracks of a front-line unit after his knock at the entrance of another unit went unanswered, a top military official said.
Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a parliamentary audit of the military Thursday that the defector showed up at the barracks after he "got no response when he knocked on the door" at a nearby unit some 30 meters away.
According to the JCS chairman, the North Korean soldier left his unit about 50 kilometers north of the border around 4 a.m. on Sept. 29 before arriving at the border around 8 p.m. on Oct. 2. He then crossed the Demilitarized Zone, a 4-kilometer buffer zone between the two sides, and reached the South Korean border fence around 10:30 p.m.
He slipped past the South's border fence before turning himself in around 11 p.m.
Hello...? Anybody home?
I am not sure about Yonhap's use of the phrase "Some 30 meters away), like 30 meters is a great distance or anything. The phrase becomes a little more loaded when taking into account the overall tone of the piece seems to be in the vein of shit-stirring, in a week when people started to think that there was an attempted cover up of the whole incident - Yonhap notes:
The absence of surveillance camera footage from the time has also spurred speculation the military might have deleted it in an attempt to cover up the mistake. Officials later said the camera was malfunctioning at the time.
Officials also said the initial account of what happened was incorrect because a noncommissioned officer at the unit reported details of the incident based on his "assumption.
The report was later corrected, but a JCS officer ignored the corrected report, officials said.
In a very Korean move, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) have come out and said sorry.
However president Lee Myung Bak (Dude, eye etc...) has seen fit to censure the Defense Minister over the breaches.
This will be the third defection of North Korean personnel over the DMZ into the south in as many months. A (possibly disturbing) trend perhaps? Probably not, but it hasn't gone without censures north of the DMZ either. The Chosun Bimbo Ilbo reports:
[T]he North Korean Army chief has apparently been demoted in the wake of several defections by soldiers across the heavily armed border.
Hyon Yong-chol, the chief of the North Korean Army's General Staff, is seen in a photo carried by state media wearing only the insignia of a general during a visit to the embalmed corpses of nation founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il to mark the 67th anniversary of the North Korean Workers Party on Wednesday.
Hyon succeeded Ri Yong-ho, who was sacked in July, and was promoted to vice marshal. A North Korean vice marshal wears one large star, while a general's insignia features four small stars. That means Hyon was demoted again just around two months after his promotion.
I would certainly prefer smaller stars over being sent to the gulag though.... However, if Hyon has an ounce of patience he should be right:
Some experts believe Hyon will not have to spend long in the doldrums. Last year, the head of the Operations Bureau at the General Staff, Kim Myong-guk, was demoted from four-star general to three-star general, but returned to his original rank months later.
Late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il "often demoted his military officials in order to enforce discipline and they returned to their original ranks a few months later," said an informed source.
This is of course all serious stuff. One of the defectors in fact shot dead 2 officers in his unit before making an escape to the south. However I can't help but think that the movie JSA (Here's the whole thing on YouTube) has more of a baring in truth than I first thought.