US, S. Korean soldiers rescue farmer in DMZ village accident
SEOUL, South Korea – U.S. and South Korean soldiers stationed in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the country from the North responded to a different kind of emergency last week.
A farmer in Taesong-dong, the only South Korean village located in the heavily fortified area, got his right leg caught in a tractor Wednesday. His mother, who was with him, called the village chief, who contacted the civilian affairs company with the security battalion at the nearby Joint Security Area.
Soldiers acted quickly, rendering first aid while the farmer was bleeding profusely. U.S. Forces Korea, meanwhile, sent a helicopter to medevac him to a hospital, Jung Dongho, a public affairs officer with the security battalion, said Friday.
The farmer, who was only identified by his surname Choi, was flown to the Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, where he underwent surgery for four hours. He remains hospitalized so doctors can monitor his condition, Jung said, adding it took just over an hour from the time of the 5:15 p.m. accident to get Choi to the hospital.
“Because the soldiers transported Choi to the hospital very quickly, they saved his life and they saved his leg,” Jung said.
Taesong-dong, which the U.S. military calls Freedom Village, is the only population center in the DMZ, an area about 160 miles long and 2 ½ miles wide marked by barbed wire and dotted with land mines. It’s near the JSA, which is under the command of U.N. forces as part of the 1953 armistice that halted the three-year Korean War.
About 200 residents enjoy many financial benefits for agreeing to live in the dangerously situated rural hamlet, which is less than a mile from its North Korean counterpart, dubbed Propaganda Village because it’s believed to be largely vacant. But the area is strictly controlled and has no police or hospitals, leaving it dependent on U.S. and South Korean forces for security and other assistance.
Capt. Jake Singleton, who was on duty at the tactical operations center when the accident occurred, said the helicopter came from Camp Casey.
He praised the teamwork by the South Korean and U.S. soldiers, saying the constant training they do as a combined battalion paid off.
“We were able to execute this seamlessly and flawlessly once it became a real world event,” the 36-year-old from Summit, Mississippi, told Stars and Stripes.
Jung said about 20 South Korean soldiers and at least seven U.S. soldiers responded to Choi’s accident, which occurred as he and his mother were trying to cover a field with vinyl. Choi’s mother fainted as he was being taken to the hospital, but she recovered quickly, Jung said.
He said it was also a useful test of how well the U.S. and South Korean soldiers would work together after extensive joint training.
“I was worried about how we would work with the USFK soldiers because of language and other barriers, but everything went very well and quickly,” Jung said.