SEOUL — North Korea staged a “mass meeting” this week in Pyongyang to welcome a South Korean man who defected late last year after reportedly serving as a U.S. Forces Korea civilian employee.

According to the North’s official Korea Central News Agency, Kim Ki-ho, 60, was welcomed, awarded “prize money” and congratulated for his “will to join the sacred … revolutionary ranks whose members are single-mindedly united around the headquarters of the revolution.”

KCNA regularly releases rhetoric-filled reports either praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Il or chastening the American military and South Korean officials.

Kim Ki-ho, who claimed to be a 6th Ordnance Battalion quality assurance specialist at Camp Long, reportedly defected to North Korea late last year. Earlier this month, U.S. military officials confirmed a man named Kim Ki-ho was employed by USFK from 1984 through 2003 but could not say whether that man was the reported defector.

A South Korean National Intelligence Service official told Stars and Stripes the agency had tracked Kim from South Korea to China, where he might have defected.

While movement to North Korea is relatively rare, South Korean officials say almost 2,000 North Koreans defected to the South last year, 50 percent more than the previous year.

In a separate, highly publicized incident last October, South Korean officials said a local civilian cut holes into the security fence along the Demilitarized Zone and defected to the North.

During the Pyongyang ceremony, Kim decried the “predatory nature” of the United States and its relationship with the South, according to KCNA.

“The people in the south … are very pleased to learn that their brethren in the north are frustrating every move of the U.S. against the north,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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