2017 Man of the Year: North Korean Defector Shot Crossing the DMZ

Surveillance TV footage containing the moment of defection of a North Korean Soldier
Surveillance TV footage containing the moment of defection of a North Korean Soldier / Getty Images
• December 27, 2017 5:00 pm


When an oppressed man hears the call of freedom, he has a choice to make. He can ignore it, suppress it, try to overcome it, or he can put every last ounce of strength into finding a way out. Oh Chong Song chose the latter.

Like every North Korean man, the 24-year-old Oh was conscripted into the People's Army. Not content to serve a corrupt and evil regime, Oh hatched a daring escape plan. Driving a military jeep, he sped past a military guard post and the monument to North Korea's founding dictator Kim Il Sung, eventually ditching his vehicle to run for South Korea on foot as enemy soldiers fired at him more than 40 times.

Video shows his former comrades in pursuit, shooting pistols and an AK-47 while Oh runs across the military demarcation line and into South Korean territory. Oh was hit at least four times before he crossed into the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, where he hid behind a retaining wall and lost more than 50 percent of his blood before receiving the medical attention necessary to save his life.

After three South Korean soldiers brought him to safety, Oh flew in a U.S. Black Hawk military helicopter and underwent multiple surgeries on his gunshot wounds as well as his intestines, which had dozens of parasites. He is now in a military hospital and his condition is stable.

Oh's encouraging medical recovery coincided with a generous gift from South Korean snack company Orion, which learned of his love for their Choco Pies after he asked for some from his hospital bed. The popular marshmallow and chocolate snacks command a high price on the North Korean black market, since the communist government has banned them for being delicious enough to qualify as South Korean propaganda.

Orion offered him a lifetime supply of their tasty treat. And while he is not medically cleared to eat them yet, he will soon be able to snack triumphantly as a Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

Published under: Men of the Year