SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean military authorities have surrounded a soldier who fled his border outpost after killing five comrades the day before and were trying to persuade him to surrender, a defense official said Sunday.
One platoon leader was wounded when the runaway soldier, identified only by his surname Yim, fired on the military personnel closing in on him, according to a defense ministry official who asked not to be named, citing department rules. It wasn’t clear how officers were communicating with Yim.
Yim had opened fire Saturday night with his standard issue K2 assault rifle at an outpost near the North Korean border in Gangwon province, east of Seoul, killing five fellow soldiers and wounding seven others.
Villagers in a nearby area have been warned not to leave their houses. The village head, Jang Seok-kwon, told YTN news channel that he heard guns fire about 10 times.
Yim, who was scheduled to be discharged from the military in September, fled with his weapon, but it wasn’t clear how much live ammunition he had.
Thousands of troops from the rival Koreas are squared off along the world’s most heavily armed border.
There was no indication that North Korea was involved. But tensions between the two countries have been high recently, with North Korea staging a series of missile and artillery drills and threatening South Korea’s leader. The Koreas have also traded fire along their disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea. South Korea has repeatedly vowed to respond with strength if provoked by the North.
Shootings happen occasionally at the border.
In 2011, a 19-year-old marine corporal went on a shooting rampage at a Gwanghwa Island base, just south of the maritime border with North Korea. Military investigators later said that corporal was angry about being shunned and slighted and showed signs of mental illness before the shooting.
In 2005, a soldier tossed a hand grenade and opened fire at a front-line army unit in a rampage that killed eight colleagues and injured several others. Pfc. Kim Dong-min told investigators he was enraged at superiors who verbally abused him.
All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two years in the military under a conscription system aimed at countering aggression from North Korea.
The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korean aggression.