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Seoul says North Korean intelligence officer defected to South Korea

Seoul has revealed that a North Korean senior official defected last year. It's the second such disclosure in the past few days, and has drawn criticism from some sections of the South Korean government.

Seoul said on Monday that the unnamed North Korean citizen, a colonel in charge of intelligence operations, crossed the border into the South sometime last year. The man's name and the precise date of his defection were not released.

According to a South Korean news agency, the military official was in charge of spy operations against North Korea's southern neighbor.

"He is the highest-level military official to have ever defected to the South," the news agency quoted a Seoul official as saying.

Second major defection in a week

The announcement came several days after another major defection, in which a group of 13 North Korean restaurant workers operating outside the country fled to the South.

Seoul's announcement of the latest defection is an unusual move, and some in the government have criticized the governing conservative party of using the disclosure to rally supporters ahead of parliamentary elections on Wednesday.

Some 30,000 North Koreans have fled the country over the years in order to seek a better life in the South. However, the number of annual defectors has dwindled considerably since Kim Jong-Un took power in December 2011.

The announcement also comes amid renewed concerns over North Korean nuclear ambitions. Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7)

discussed the issue

at a meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

blc/tj (dpa, AFP)

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