The first North Korean Army officer in 10 years has defected over the heavily fortified inter-Korean border to South Korea, a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said Monday in Seoul.
The 28-year-old fled over the border Sunday and was picked up on its western side by South Korean guards whom he asked for asylum, the spokesman who asked not to be named told reporters.
Intelligence services are now investigating the officer's story and his motive for fleeing North Korea, he said.
The last time a North Korean officer - a first lieutenant - defected across the inter-Korean border was in 1998, and the latest enlisted man crossed last year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Many more North Koreans flee their impoverished, Stalinist country every year because of its lack of food and repression, dpa reported. Most flee over the border with China, where most hide themselves out of fear that Chinese authorities would discover them and send them back to North Korea.
Many of them eventually reach South Korea through a third country.
Soldiers are generally better off and better fed that most civilians in North Korea.