Crash Landing into Freedom: The Stories of Former North Korean Soldiers


On Wednesday, March 4th the Korea Defense Veterans Association took part in the “Crash Landing into Freedom: The Stories of Former North Korean Soldiers” panel discussion. Hudson Institute hosted this panel discussion with two former North Korean soldiers as they discussed their escapes from the hermit kingdom. 

OH Cheong Seong defected from North Korea on November 13, 2017 via the DMZ by driving a military truck right up to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and running on foot towards the South Korean side, while getting shot at by his fellow North Korean soldiers. Surveillance footage of Oh’s daring escape for freedom, and news of his injuries and the state of his health, caught the attention of the world. Though gravely wounded with five bullets in his body, Oh survived the ordeal and later made a full recovery.

LEE Unggil, a former solider in North Korea’s 11th Corps Special Forces who escaped while completing university studies, will explain the plight of North Korean soldiers and the motivations for those seeking freedom.

Panelists gave insight into what life is like inside the country and describe why so many North Koreans, if given the choice, would choose freedom.


  • Dr. Patrick M. Cronin, Asia-Pacific Security Chair, Hudson Institute
  • Colonel Steve Lee, U.S. Army (Ret.), Senior Vice President of Operations, Korea Defense Veterans Association
  • OH Cheong Seong, Former Driver in the North Korean Panmunjom Military Police Unit of the Operations Bureau
  • LEE Unggil, Former Member of the North Korean People’s Army 11th Corps Special Forces and Member of the North Korean People’s Liberation Front

To hear LEE Unggil’s and OH Cheong Seong’s story and the panel discussion, watch the video below or click here.

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