A North Korean defector says he understands why his fellow soldiers shot him as he made a run for the border in 2017 after smashing his vehicle through a military checkpoint. Friendship isn't the issue, he said. It was their job. "If I were in their shoes, I would have done the same thing," Oh Chong Song tells NBC News. Surveillance footage shows several North Korean soldiers, who were members of his unit, scrambling behind him and opening fire. Oh, who said he was terrified, was hit by at least five bullets. "I still ran," he says. Moments later, South Korean soldiers dragged him to safety. "I did think that I was going to die as I was lying there."
Oh hadn't been planning to defect. "I crossed the border at 3:15pm, but even at that morning I had no thought of going to the South," he says. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and once he was through the checkpoint, he feared being caught, so he kept going. As the son of a general, he tells NBC he figured he "would have been either sent to a concentration camp for political prisoners or, worse, executed by firing squad." As it was, Oh barely survived the escape, per a previous story in the Washington Post. He's still amazed by the whole thing. "Even I can't believe something like this happened," Oh said. "I can't believe it's me in the video." (Read more North Korea stories.)