A North Korean soldier who was shot and wounded as he sought to scramble across a heavily guarded border to freedom in South Korea is a “nice guy” who appreciates American movies, TV shows and western-style pop music, according to the doctor treating him.
Surgeon John Cook-Jong Lee told the Reuters news agency this week that the North Korean defector, a young soldier who is recovering in a Seoul hospital and has only been identified by the name “Oh,” admitted to liking the comedy film Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman and the gritty crime television series CSI.
The 24-year-old also expressed admiration for K-pop, a South Korean musical genre that mixes elements of electronica, rock, hip hop, R&B and jazz.
It wasn’t clear if the soldier was first exposed to western movies, TV shows and music in the hospital ward where he arrived after being shot four times on Nov. 13, or if he gained access to them while inside North Korea. Pyongyang is a highly secretive regime that restricts information its citizens can access to crack down on dissent.
Dramatic footage of the soldier’s daring defection was released Wednesday by the American-led United Nations Command that helps police the 1950-1953 Korean War armistice. It showed showed him racing across the border under fire from former comrades, and then being hauled to safety by South Korean troops.
“He told me that he is so thankful for South Koreans for saving his life and giving him so much blood,” Lee said of the soldier in the interview. He said “Oh” was recovering well physically but having recurring nightmares about being sent back to the North.
“He’s a pretty nice guy,” he said, adding that he had hair “like a jarhead, like a U.S. Marine, so I actually joked ‘why don’t you join the South Korean marines?’ He smiled and said that he would never ever go back to the military system again.”
North Korea is believed to have replaced all the border security guards who failed to prevent the soldier’s defection, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Friday.
Marc Knapper, the acting U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, tweeted a picture Thursday of what he said showed North Koreans planting two trees and digging a trench at the spot where “Oh” crossed into the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. North Korean border guards who were chasing him had strayed into the area before turning back, technically violating the terms of the Korean War truce.
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