SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ North Korea's former national soccer team coach has escaped his hunger-stricken homeland and arrived in South Korea to seek asylum, intelligence officials said Wednesday.

Yoon Myong Chan, 50, who served as the coach for North Korea's national soccer team between 1990 and 1994, defected recently to the South, the National Intelligence Service said.

Yoon is the first known North Korean sports official to defect to South Korea.

The state Yonhap news agency said Yoon led the northern team when the two Koreas held friendly soccer matches in their capitals in 1990. It said he left North Korea last July and arrived in South Korea in April.

About 300 North Koreans have defected to South Korea in the past five years, including 70 in 1998 and about 40 this year. Many have complained about severe food and fuel shortages in the reclusive country.

The Koreas were divided into the communist North and the capitalist South in 1945. They are still technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.