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South Korea: Senior North Korean Military Officer Defects

  • VOA News

FILE - North Korean soldiers salute before the statues of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il, and his father, North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 16, 2014. The unidentified defector is a colonel who worked in North Korea's General Reconnaissance Bureau, making him the highest-ranked officer ever to defect from the authoritarian regime. 

FILE - North Korean soldiers salute before the statues of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il, and his father, North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 16, 2014. The unidentified defector is a colonel who worked in North Korea's General Reconnaissance Bureau, making him the highest-ranked officer ever to defect from the authoritarian regime. 

South Korea says a high-ranking North Korean military officer defected to the South last year.

The announcement was made Monday in Seoul by the South's ministries of Defense and Unification, the latter of which handles affairs between the rival Koreas. The unidentified officer is a colonel who worked in North Korea's General Reconnaissance Bureau, making him the highest-ranked officer known to defect from the authoritarian regime.

The bureau conducts espionage activities against Seoul, including cyberattacks. The agency is also blamed for the 2010 torpedo attack against a South Korean naval ship, killing 46 sailors; an act Pyongyang has denied.

Last year, a North Korean diplomat stationed in an African country defected with his family to the South.

Monday's news of the North Korean colonel's defection comes just days after Seoul revealed that 13 North Koreans working at a state-owned restaurant in a foreign country defected as a group; the largest group defection since 2011.

More than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to the democratic South since the end of the 1950-53 civil war that split the two countries. The numbers have declined since Kim Jong Un took over as leader of the dynastic-run North in 2011.

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