Page last updated at 04:41 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Defector 'fleeing S Korea charge'


A rare South Korean defector to communist North Korea was wanted on an assault charge, South Korean police have said.

North Korean media said that pig farmer Kang Tong-rim had crossed the heavily fortified land border a day earlier because of his "longing" for the North.

South Korea's military confirmed a border wire fence had been cut.

Any defection to the North would be rare - more than 2,800 North Koreans fled to the south last year.

North Korean state media, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said Mr Kang was now under "the warm care of authorities" and was "pleased with his accomplishment".

Conflicting versions

But South Korean officials are rejecting the North's version, insisting Mr Kang was fleeing the South's justice system.

Police in Jinan county 180 km (110 miles) south of Seoul, where Mr Kang worked, said he had been wanted since late September on charges of assaulting the owner of the farm where he worked.

Na Jun-bae, a senior Jinan county police officer, told AFP news agency that Mr Kang had worked for the farm for two months before he assaulted the owner with a blunt object and ran off.

The owner needed three weeks of medical treatment.

What is not in doubt is that the heavily fortified border fence between North and South was cut.

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.

'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.

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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