It occurred in one of the few spots that such an attempt is possible: the Joint Security Area in the truce village of Panmunjom, the only part of the heavily fortified DMZ where North Koreans and South Koreans face each other.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff here, South Korean guards were alerted by the sound of gunfire north of the border and found the soldier lying on the ground about 50 m south of the military demarcation line west of Freedom House around 3:30 p.m.
South Korea's military has strengthened vigilance in the wake of the incident and remains prepared for any situation, the JCS said.
He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the Defence Ministry said.
It wasn't immediately known how serious the soldier's injuries were or why he chose to defect. In that short period of time, four North Korean soldiers shot as many as 40 rounds at him.
The soldier's successful escape makes only the fourth defection by a North Korean soldier through the DMZ in the last three years, the BBC reported.
DiMaggio has held secret backchannel talks with North Korean officials four times over the past year, The Daily Telegraph reports, and has been a negotiator between the USA and North Korea for more than 20 years. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.
North Korea has typically accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, something the South denies. They stand only several meters (yards) away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. That prompted Washington to send nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to intimidate the North before the adversaries pulled back from the brink of conflict.
A North Korean soldier defected to the South by driving a vehicle to the line that divides the peninsula, then sprinting across it as his former comrades opened fire, the United Nations Command said Tuesday. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.