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North Korean officer defects to South Korea

  • Story Highlights
  • South Korea says a North Korean soldier has defected across fortified border
  • The defection is the first of a commissioned N. Korean officer in nearly 10 years
  • Official said the officer approached a guard post Sunday on western part of frontier
  • Soldier told South Korean soldiers he wanted asylum
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- A North Korean soldier defected across the demilitarized zone and sought asylum in South Korea on Sunday, according to a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman.

A North Korean soldier looks at the southern side of the border through binoculars at a gate tower.

It was the first defection in 10 years of a commissioned North Korean military officer, according to Yonhap, an official South Korean news agency.

The 28-year-old second lieutenant walked across the heavily-fortified border at about 3 p.m. Sunday, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The soldier, identified by his surname Ri, told South Korean soldiers he wanted asylum, an unnamed South Korean military official told Yonhap.

"He is being questioned by the joint review committee of related offices, but I understand he has made it clear that he wishes to stay in the South," the official told Yonhap.

The Defense Ministry official told CNN that it was unusual for a commissioned officer to defect, although Yonhap reported that an enlisted member of the North's Korean People's Army crossed the border last year.

Since a truce ended the Korean conflict in 1953, more than 12,000 North Koreans, mostly civilians, have defected to the South, Yonhap reported. Most of them fled through China, it reported. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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