A North Korean soldier stands guard at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone.

A North Korean soldier stands guard at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone. (Anderson Grant/U.S. Army)

SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean soldier who defected to the South under a hail of gunfire has stabilized but remained unconscious after undergoing a second operation on Wednesday, according to a media report.

The soldier was airlifted to a hospital south of Seoul on Monday after he was found bleeding following his dash across the border.

North Korean soldiers fired at least 40 rounds to try to stop his escape, hitting him at least five times, South Korean officials have said.

Reuters news agency quoted the surgeon in charge of his treatment at Ajou University Hospital as saying that the soldier had stabilized but was still unconscious.

Wednesday’s surgery had succeeded in stanching the bleeding, but a severe hip fracture and possible infection remained serious concerns, Lee Cook-jong said, according to the report.

The soldier, whose rank and identity have not been released, tried to escape in a military jeep at the Joint Security Area, where the two sides face each other in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.

But he jumped out of the vehicle after it got stuck in a ditch and sprinted across the border on foot.

It was the first shooting at the JSA since 1984. U.S. and South Korean forces guarding their side did not return fire.

More than 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 war between the two countries, but it’s rare for soldiers to flee across the DMZ, much less the JSA.

North Korea has not commented on the shooting, but it usually responds angrily to defections and often accuses South Korea of kidnapping its citizens.

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