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North Korean soldier in critical condition after being gunned down in an attempt to defect

111417 Correll North Korean soldier shot pic
A North Korean soldier defecting from his country found cover in the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone, the 2.5-mile-wide strip of land that separates North and South Korea. (Jung Yeon-Je/Pool Photo via AP, File)

A North Korean soldier remains in critical condition after he was shot multiple times in an attempt to defect to South Korea.

Several surgical procedures have been performed on him and he remains in critical condition, but is likely to survive, South Korea’s government and military said Tuesday.

“Until this morning, we heard he had no consciousness and was unable to breathe on his own but his life can be saved,” said Suh Uk, a South Korean military official, according to Reuters.

Suh said five bullets had been removed from the soldier’s body and it is expected two remain inside him.

The soldier remains in critical condition due to intestinal damage caused by the bullets, Le Cook-jong, the surgeon overseeing the treatment, told reporters.

The soldier was headed for the border of South Korea as a wheel from his vehicle came loose, causing him to flee from North Korean soldiers’ fire on foot. Approximately 40 rounds were shot at him, Suh said.

He found cover in the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea and South Korea behind a South Korean structure. South Korean and U.S. soldiers at the border later saved him, according to the United Nations Command.

The soldier did not carry any weapons and officials are uncertain his intentions or where he came from. The North Korean military was informed that the soldier was undergoing surgery and later was told about his ongoing treatment.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to the United Nations Command.

A North Korean soldier has not defected across the Joint Security Area since 2007 and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said this incident marked the first time North Korean soldiers opened fire toward South Korea’s side of the Joint Security Area.

No South Korean or U.S. soldiers were wounded.

President Trump visited South Korea last week as part of a 13-day trip to Asia.