It took three months for news of North Korean soldier's dramatic defection to reach ordinary citizens

AFP/Getty ImagesA South Korean soldier stands guard near the spot where a North Korean soldier crossed the border line at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on November 27, 2017
  • News of a North Korean soldier who defected in November 2017 has begun to spread in North Korea.
  • The news came via towns along the Chinese border, which is where most North Korean’s foreign contact occurs.
  • Olympic developments have been overshadowed by the news.
  • North Korea strictly controls news coming in and out of its country and rarely reports on defections.

Three months passed before North Koreans found out one of their country’s soldiers made a dramatic defection

On November 13 2017, a North Korean soldier dramatically defected to South Korea by running across the Demilitarized Zone. The soldier was shot at least five times and made global headlines.

But in North Korea, where information is highly controlled and defections rarely reported, citizens have only just begun to hear about the soldier’s escape.

According to South Korea’s Daily NK, it took nearly three months for the news to break and it is a more popular discussion point in North Korea than the country’s delegation to the Winter Olympics.

“North Korean merchants active in China have returned to North Korea and began circulating the story of the defector soldier. Parents who have children in the military are particularly interested,” a North Korean-based source told Daily NK.

North Koreans are also apparently surprised that South Korea went to great lengths to save the soldier’s life, enabling him to have a “new start to life.”

At the time, South Korea tried to promote the defection, and demoralize troops, by broadcasting the news over the border using a giant set of loudspeakers.

But historically most outside information has entered via China. The long border between the countries is hard-to-monitor and has allowed a black market for Western goods and USBs filled with foreign content to flourish.

Daily NK reports that news of the soldier’s defection is now spreading quickly in this border region, where there is also more contact with foreigners.

The area is also usually the land route defectors choose according to Reuters, with more than 1,000 North Koreans defecting to South Korea every year via China.

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