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South Korean surgeon Lee Cook-Jong was already having a busy day in Trauma Bay 1 when he got the call: A US Black Hawk helicopter was on its way with an injured soldier. But it wasn’t just any soldier.
“I was informed that he was badly shot by North Koreans,” Lee said, reliving the complex chain of events that brought North Korean defector Oh Chong Song to his trauma unit on November 13.
Lee says he went to meet his critically injured patient on the helipad, just a few hundred feet from the state-of-the-art, US-modeled trauma center he runs at Ajou University Hospital in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
The chopper was coming in fast, and for that, he says, he was thankful.
“His vital signs were so unstable, he was dying of low blood pressure, he was dying of shock,” Lee said.
“He was like a broken jar. We couldn’t put enough blood into him.”
The 24-year-old had been shot around five times by his fellow North Korean soldiers as he made his daring escape across the line that divides North and South Korea.
Riddled with bullets, he was dragged to safety by South Korean soldiers and hovered close to death during the 25-minute airlift to hospital.
What unfolded after the Black Hawk touched down was a harrowing effort to keep Oh alive that lasted more than six hours – captured in video Lee shared exclusively with CNN, with the permission of the soldier.