SEOUL - South Korean troops closed in Monday on a cornered fugitive conscript, pushing him to surrender after he killed five fellow soldiers in a shooting spree on the border with North Korea.
Thousands of soldiers backed by special forces units and army helicopters were surrounding the 23-year-old sergeant after a night-long standoff in a small forested area south of the heavily militarised frontier.
"We are closing in on him and he was close enough to be able to pick up a cell phone we threw," defence ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told a briefing.
Mr Kim said the sergeant, identified by his family name Lim, had spoken to his father who had urged his son to give himself up.
Armed with a K-2 assault rifle and a stash of ammunition, Lim went on the run Saturday night after killing five fellow soldiers at a frontline border outpost.
He traded fire with his pursuers late on Sunday before digging in for the night in a section of forest outside a village some 10 kilometres away.
Mr Kim said there were further sporadic exchanges of fire during the night, and Lim was still considered extremely dangerous.
"We don't plan to immediately move to capture him because we don't want to trigger any extreme behaviour," he said.
"We are encouraging him to surrender," he added.
Seven others were wounded in Lim's shooting spree on Saturday, during which he detonated a grenade and fired multiple rounds.
Lim was due to be discharged in the next few months after completing his compulsory military service.
The motive behind the shooting was unclear, but army sources said he had difficulty adapting to the military, and psychological evaluators had advised senior officers to pay him special attention.