Fighting to save a dying North Korean soldier who made a desperate dash for freedom at the border, an American medic prayed for a miracle, as he was sure the man was going to die.
Oh Chong Song, a 24-year-old North Korean soldier, was shot five times by his comrades as he ran into South Korea in the Joint Security Area at the DMZ. After the wounded man collapsed in a pile of leaves on the southern side, he was rescued by South Korean soldiers and airlifted aboard a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter to Ajou University Hospital for emergency medical treatment.
The young soldier remained unconscious and in critical condition for days, but he survived. The South Korean doctor tasked with his care explained that Oh “would have died before arriving at the hospital” had it not been for the actions of the medical team aboard the American helicopter.
“I could tell immediately that this guy was probably going to die in the next 15 minutes if we didn’t start working on him and get the aircraft off the ground,” Sgt. 1st Class Gopal Singh, a medic in the U.S. Eighth Army’s 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, told the Washington Post, recalling his first encounter with Oh.
Singh, as well as the other crew members aboard the H-60 medical evacuation Black Hawk dispatched from Camp Casey, had no idea the man they were tasked with carrying was a North Korean soldier who had just made a wild run into South Korea amid a barrage of bullets from the North.
“I actually said a prayer because I saw the condition he was in,” Singh revealed, adding, “The pilots could probably tell by my voice that he was in real danger of dying.”
“I heard the medic’s voice,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Gumm, one of the pilots, told Stars and Stripes, “You know it’s bad based on how he said it. He’s always so cool and calm. Now he was like ‘this is serious. This guy’s dying.'”
The medevac crew tore across South Korea at top speed. While the initial plan was to fly at about 138 mph, the pilots decided to kick it up a notch to 160 mph. The pilots reportedly did their best to keep focused on the mission, despite hearing loud screaming from the back.
Singh said it was nothing short of a miracle that the man survived.
“He got shot five times to be free, for the chance of a new life and a chance to live in South Korea,” he explained to reporters, “It’s truly a miracle. From the time that I saw him on the aircraft, I thought he was going to die. To able to see him make it, it’s been a good feeling for all of us.”
Oh has been watching American and South Korean movies and television, listening to Korean pop music, eating chocolate pies, and informing medical personnel that he wants to study law. Thanks to the efforts of the American medevac crew and the South Korean doctors, he has a chance for a better life outside of North Korea, which President Donald Trump previously described as a bleak “hell that no one deserves.”
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