North Korea's latest defector may have useful information about Pyongyang

Key Points
  • North Korea's latest defector may have been a driver for a major state official, according to South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo
  • If that's true, the defector could have useful insights about leader Kim Jong Un's administration
North Korea's latest defector may have useful information about Pyongyang

A North Korean soldier who staged a dramatic escape to South Korea may potentially have useful insights about dictator Kim Jong Un's administration.

The individual reportedly drove a vehicle near the military demarcation line — the border separating both Koreas — on Monday and proceeded to run towards the South Korean side, attracting a hail of gunfire from North Korean guards.

The man, who is currently on life-support at a hospital near Seoul, could have been a driver for a high-level North Korean official, the Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean newspaper, reported on Thursday.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks toward the north from an observation post inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 17, 2017.
Kim Hong-Ji | Reuters

"Only drivers are allowed to operate vehicles and go to Panmunjom through the demilitarized zone," a former North Korean police officer told the Chosun Ilbo, referring to a North Korean facility in the zone.

"It looks like he was a driver for a representative of the Panmunjom delegation, a chief of staff, or a state security chief."

Footage of the defector's bold escape is expected to be revealed later on Thursday, according to the Chosun Ilbo.

Ri Jong Ho, a former senior North Korean economic official who defected in 2014, recently described the dire economic conditions presently gripping his home country, stating that he wasn't sure whether the rogue nation could survive another year under sanctions.

Read the Chosun Ilbo's full English-language account.