South Korea Blasts North Korea Defector News Across the Border With Loudspeakers

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A South Korean soldier stands next to loudspeakers near the border between South Korea and North Korea on January 8, 2016. Pool-Donga Daily via Getty Images

The South Korean military has started broadcasting news of a North Korean soldier's recent defection through loudspeakers set up along the inter-Korean border.

The daring escape of the 24-year-old soldier has provided the South with new ammunition in its propaganda war with Pyongyang. The soldier's escape made headlines around the world as he was caught on CCTV driving a car across the heavily guarded Joint Security Area (JSA), the only point in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) where soldiers of the two countries stand face-to-face, then running across the military demarcation line under a hail of bullets.

South Korea started the "Voice of Freedom" FM radio broadcasts shortly after the defection on November 13, military officials said Sunday, quoted in South Korean news agency Yonhap.

The broadcasts described how the soldier crossed the border and was treated for critical gunshot wounds and preexisting conditions, including a parasitic infection and hepatitis B, and showed signs of malnutrition.

"The news about an elite soldier like a JSA guard having fled in a hail of bullets will have a significant psychological impact on North Korean border guards," said a military spokesperson quoted in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

Traces of bullets fired by North Korean security guards at the defector were still visible on the southern side of the JSA. South Korean defense minister Song Young-moo visited the area Monday and denounced North Korea's behavior.

"Shooting toward the South at a defecting person, that's a violation of the armistice," Song said, referring to the 1953 agreement that called a truce in the Korean War.

"Crossing the military demarcation line, a violation. Carrying automatic rifles [in the JSA], another violation," said Song, quoted in Reuters, before adding, "North Korea should be informed this sort of thing should never occur again."

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (right) visits the area in Panmunjom, South Korea, where a North Korean defected, on November 27. Korea Pool/Getty Images

North Korea's state-controlled media had not reported on the defection or its aftermath, but a South Korean intelligence source said all border security guards, who were handpicked for the position to ensure ideological commitment to the regime, were removed and replaced for failing to prevent the defection.

Diplomats visiting the JSA last week saw men digging a trench and planting trees at the spot the soldier ran across to reach South Korea—an attempt by Pyongyang to strengthen the border and close gaps that could spur other defections.

But no physical barrier can stop the sound from South Korea's loudspeakers, which, according to the military, can reach North Korean soldiers and civilians as far as 12 miles from the border.

The South suspended the broadcasts in 2004 but resumed the anti-Pyongyang messaging—a mix of news items and K-pop music—in 2015, during a period of rising tension between the neighbors which escalated to the point of exchanging fire in August that year.

South Korea promised to silence the speakers as part of a two-way deal toward defuse those tensions, but resumed broadcasting in January 2016, after North Korea's fourth nuclear test.