World Bulletin / News Desk
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff revealed the apparently low-ranking soldier presented himself at a guard post on the South Korean side just after 8 a.m. (23:00 WED GMT).
The South fired warning shots as North Korean border guards were spotted searching for their comrade, while the North responded later in the morning with its own gunfire.
No injuries were reported but Seoul had been pushing to reduce tensions with just 50 days until the South Korean venue of PyeongChang hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Thursday’s escape comes less than a month after another North Korean soldier was left seriously injured by his own colleagues when he also fled to the South.
Most of the tens of thousands of defectors from the North have escaped via China before making their way to South Korea or elsewhere, but direct defections have spiked this year amid stronger sanctions against Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, Seoul’s Unification Ministry announced that a pair of North Koreans managed to reach the South aboard a boat in waters east of the peninsula a day earlier.
South Korea’s policy is to welcome refugees from the North after a period of investigation and acclimatization to life in a capitalist society.