SOUTH Korean authorities announced Monday that a senior North Korean military intelligence officer has defected to the country.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said that a colonel from the North Korean military’s General Reconnaissance Bureau defected to South Korea last year. It didn’t elaborate.
“Yes, that is true,” Moon Sang-gyun, the spokesperson for the Defence Ministry, said when asked to confirm a report about the defection, reported Channel News Asia.
The North Korean reconnaissance agency that the colonel was attached to was believed to be behind two deadly attacks blamed on Pyongyang that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.
There have been occasional reports of lower-level North Korean soldiers defecting but it is unusual for a colonel to flee to the South.
More than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
According to the Chosun Ilbo, Seoul said last week that 13 North Koreans working at the same restaurant in the Chinese city of Ningbo had defected to the South. That was the largest group defection since the country’s supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, came to power in 2011.
The New York Times reported last year that 28,000 defectors live in the South, and many of them have trouble adjusting to life there. The paper said a government survey showed that defectors earned only 66 percent of the average South Korean’s income, and experienced an unemployment rate that is four times the national average.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press