By HYUNG-JIN KIM
SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean soldier killed two of his superiors Saturday and defected to South Korea across the countries’ heavily armed border in a rare crossing that prompted South Korean troops to immediately beef up their border patrol, officials said.
The soldier shot his platoon and squad leaders before crossing the western side of the Demilitarized Zone at around noon, a Defense Ministry official said, citing the soldier’s statement after he was taken into custody by South Korean border guards.
The official, who declined to be named, had earlier said one of the killed North Korean troops was a company commander but later corrected it, saying the information was mishandled in the first couple of hours of the development.
He said South Korean guards heard six gunshots before the North Korean soldier crossed the border. He also said the soldier used a loudspeaker to let South Korean guards know his intention to defect after the killings. The official said the motive behind the defection was unclear.
No unusual military movement was detected from the North Korean side of the border after the crossing, but South Korea immediately instructed its border troops to step up their guard, a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. He also declined to be named, citing office rules.
There was no immediate comment from communist North Korea’s state-run media.
Defections across the land border are rare, though North Koreans occasionally come to the South by boat. Last year, a North Korean civilian defected to the South across the land border. The last defection across the Demilitarized Zone by a North Korean soldier occurred in 2010, officials said. Another soldier and an officer also defected to the South across the border in two separate crossings in 2008.
The vast majority of North Koreans fleeing their homeland travel through China and Southeast Asia before arriving in the South.