Seoul: North Korean border guards, in a rare cross-border pursuit, shot dead five defectors and wounded two others who fled the reclusive state into China, a South Korean newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The Chosun Ilbo reported that North Korean border guards had never before shot at defectors once they had reached the Chinese side of the border, adding that guards could have been issued with new instructions for dealing with defectors.
The daily quoted a high-level source in Changbai in the Chinese province of Jilin as saying the seven had left Hyesan in Yanggang province and walked across the frozen Yalu River and reached the Chinese side on December 14.
Five were shot dead by North Korean border guards who were in pursuit and two were wounded and taken to the North, it said.
The Sino-Korean border, in China`s northeast, is quiet and fairly porous, with a steady flow of refugees and traders coming over to escape food shortages or profit from them.
Beijing tolerates the cross-border traffic in part because it is fearful that a collapse of the regime would turn that trickle into a flood, and could one day mean South Korean or even US troops stationed on its border.
It also provides support including grains and energy for the North Korean leadership. China fought alongside the North against the United States and the South during the 1950-53 Korean War.