(CNN) — Dramatic new video from the North Korea-South Korea border shows a North Korean soldier making a harrowing attempt at freedom while being chased and fired at by his comrades.
The 24-year-old soldier was seen speeding toward the military demarcation line between the two Koreas, looking to make a desperate dash across the border.
Other North Korean troops were alerted when he drove past their command post. They streamed out.
“Now at this point, what has happened is, these folks are now on the radio, and they’re calling ahead to the Joint Security Area, the northern part of Panmunjom, where the North Koreans are, and he’s saying ‘We’ve got a runner,'” explained retired Gen. James “Spider” Marks, a former military intelligence officer in South Korea.
Video of this dramatic defection on Nov. 13 was just released by the U.S.-led United Nations Command.
In the closed-circuit footage, the defector drives the Jeep into a ditch, gets out, and makes a run for it.
Immediately, other North Korean soldiers converge just a few feet behind him and open fire, releasing an estimated 40 rounds.
The defecting soldier, presumably hit multiple times, is still sprinting full-speed toward the South Korean side.
“He knows if he does not keep going, there’s a very high chance that these guys will come rushing across and drag him back. So this guy right now is totally dialed in, doesn’t feel the shots. He’s losing blood. He knows he’s slowing down a little bit, but he’s got to get to freedom,” Marks said.
In those frantic seconds, another North Korean soldier sprints after the defector. The pursuer crosses the demarcation line, a violation of the armistice. He doubles back.
“He’s not thinking about the violation of the treaty. He now realizes, ‘I’m a target,'” Marks explained.
The defector was hit at least five times, but lives. Heat-signature video shows him lying by a retaining wall as two South Korean soldiers crawl to him. One seemingly raises a weapon to cover them.
They drag him further toward their side, taking a significant risk.
“They can be seen by the North both visually and through fire. The North Koreans, if they chose to, could engage this location with fire,” Marks said.
How did this not turn into a bloody shoot-out with multiple casualties? Experts say both sides are trained to de-escalate in these situations.
Balbina Hwang of Georgetown University says North Korean troops fired on their own comrade, because “the North Koreans are trained to keep each other from defecting across the line as well. So they’re going to shoot each other, and this is actually what keeps the regime intact.”
President Donald Trump has placed North Korea back on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Pyongyang has denounced the decision.
A spokesman for Kim Jong Un’s government calls the U.S. move a “serious provocation and violent infringement upon our dignified country.”