More than 30,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the 1950-53 war, but it's very rare for soldiers to flee across the DMZ, much less the Joint Security Area.
North Korean soldiers shot at the unidentified North Korean soldier when he ran from the guard post at the northern side of the village, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. In such volatile conditions, it is troubling that North Korean guards shot numerous rounds at the soldier trying to defect.
"Our military maintains full readiness while strengthening the alert in preparation for the possibility of provocations by the North Korean army", the JCS said.
The Unification Ministry said North Korean soldiers also defected across the JSA in 2007 and 1998, but military officials said no shooting occurred during those incidents. In 1984, a Soviet tourist sprinted across the demarcation line from North Korea in a bid to defect, prompting a gun battle that killed and wounded several soldiers from both sides.
"They really want to know what is his end game", said DiMaggio, a scholar at New America who specializes in talking with rogue regimes and has spent almost two decades in secret discussions with the North Koreans.
A JCS official quoted by Yonhap news agency said the South's soldiers heard a gunshot and then retrieved the unarmed soldier in the mid-afternoon.
US President Donald Trump believes North Korea's nuclear weapons are a greater threat than Russia's alleged interference in his election and wants to work with Moscow to counter that threat, an aide said Sunday.
At Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 2 1/2-mile-wide DMZ that separating the rivaling countries, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South.
Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years. That prompted Washington to send nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to intimidate the North before the adversaries pulled back from the brink of conflict.
Seo said three North Korean troops and one soldier who were on guard opened fire on the escaping soldier, firing around 40 shots.