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Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Farmer 'defects to North Korea'

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A South Korean pig farmer has defected to North Korea across the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone, according to state media in Pyongyang.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kang Tong-rim, was now under "the warm care of authorities" and was "pleased with his accomplishment".

Crossings through the zone between the two Koreas are rare, and defections from South to North even more so.

South Korean officials said they were checking the reports.

A military spokesman acknowledged there had been signs of cuts in the barbed wire fence to the east of the Demilitarized Zone, which is also strewn with landmines.

The KCNA said Kang Tong-rim harboured "a longing" to defect and had tried on many previous occasions to escape across the border.

It said the 30-year-old had worked at "Samsung Semiconductor" before moving to a pig farm in the South.

'Shoot to kill'

Thousands risk the crossing from the poverty-stricken North to the affluent South, but most go via the border with China.

More than 16,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the 1950-53 war.

However, South Korean guards are authorised to shoot to kill anyone caught in the zone who cannot provide the correct password, a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff told the AP news agency.

The last known northbound move was in 2005 when a man made it through a volley of bullets to defect to North Korea, according to KCNA.

If confirmed, the defection of Kang Tong-rim would be seen as a major propaganda coup by Pyongyang, correspondents say.

North and South Korea are still technically at war because the armistice that ended their conflict in 1953 has never been replaced with a peace treaty.



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