Media reports in South Korea Thursday, quote authorities as saying a former coach of North Korea's national soccer team has defected to the South.

The reports say the former head coach of the North Korean national soccer team has been under the protective custody of South Korean intelligence since arriving in Seoul on January 30.

The Yonhap news agency, quoting the National Intelligence Service, says 56-year-old Mun Ki-nam, along with his wife and two children, defected to South Korea after being fired by authorities in the communist north.

South Korean media on Thursday reported Mr. Moon's family sought asylum at South Korea's Embassy in Beijing in mid-January after fleeing their country last August.

Mr. Moon was the head coach of the North Korean national soccer team in 1999 and 2000. He also coached the unified inter-Korean soccer team in the 1991 World Youth Championship in Portugal. This is reportedly the second time a former coach of North Korea's soccer team has fled to the South. Former coach Yoon Myong-chan defected five years ago.

The two coaches are among some 4,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the Korean War of the early 1950s.

North Korea's soccer team rose to international prominence in 1966 when it advanced to the quarterfinals of the British-hosted World Cup, beating Italy. The victory for the North Koreans is still regarded as one of the sport's greatest upsets and the players became national heroes. But since the 1960s the team has suffered due to a lack of high-level games at the international level.

The North refused to participate in the last World Cup, co-hosted in 2002 by political rival South Korea and Japan.