North Korea

N Korea orders probe of border guards after spate of defections

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 3:04pm

Three North Korean soldiers have defected to South Korea across the heavily-fortified border since August, media reports said yesterday, in an apparent embarrassment to Pyongyang's new regime.

The rare defections - involving one officer who shot dead two superiors before defecting on Saturday - prompted the North to launch special probes on soldiers stationed at the border, Yonhap news agency and other media said.

They quoted unnamed Seoul officials and the South's military chief, Jeong Seung-Jo, who had testified to the parliamentary defence committee in a closed meeting on Monday.

One soldier crossed the western part of the border in August while another escaped in the eastern region on October 2, the reports said.

"Given their statements, the North's military appears to have serious lax discipline issues these days," said a Seoul official quoted by Yonhap.

A worsening food shortage at military barracks in the impoverished North has fanned frustration among its soldiers, the news agency quoted a South Korean intelligence official as saying.

The defence ministry declined to comment. Kim Kwang-Jin, a member of the defence committee, confirmed the defection on October 2.

The last reported military defection across the land border before the recent ones was in 2010.