Straight out of the Cold War

Conrad Schumann's leap to freedom, 1961.
Conrad Schumann’s leap to freedom, 1961.


A drama unfolded 10 days ago along the tense border that separates North and South Korea, reminiscent of East German soldier Conrad Schumann’s leap to freedom in West Berlin in 1961.

North Korean soldier runs for the border. (AP)
North Korean soldier runs for the border. (AP)

As recounted by the Associated Press, on Nov. 13, a lone North Korean soldier made a daring escape into South Korea, racing a dark olive-green jeep at high speed past his startled comrades before crashing it just short of the border.

He covers the last few yards on foot, as North Korean troops open fire with automatic weapons and handguns. Hit, the defector slumps wounded against a wall on the South Korean side of the border and is eventually dragged to safety as heavily armed North Korean soldiers gather nearby.

All of this was captured on video, which you can watch below.

The defector, whose name has not been released, is now recovering from surgeries to treat his wounds and to deal with other serious health issues, including parasites that infested his intestines, assumed to be a consequence of the poor nutrition and health that plagues members of the North Korean military.

The AP story ends with this:

About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly across the porous border with China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Now add one more to that tally — a man in uniform, fleeing gunfire toward a new life one overcast afternoon across the world’s most uneasy border.

Conrad Schumann’s life in the West was a difficult one. He was unprepared for and ultimately unable to cope with the public attention and adulation that came from being a living symbol of freedom for his new countrymen. Here’s hoping this North Korean defector has an easier time of it.