SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ A North Korean man arrived in Seoul seeking asylum Thursday after fleeing his hunger-stricken homeland, intelligence officials said.

Park Yong Soo, 33, had been in hiding in a ``third country'' since leaving North Korea in August 1996, officials at the Agency for National Security Planning said.

The government generally uses the term ``third country'' to avoid naming China, which is required by treaty with North Korea to return defectors to their homeland.

The agency said Park had worked at a fur plant near Pyongyang before leaving the North but declined to reveal further details.

About 200 North Koreans have defected to South Korea in the past three years. All complained about severe food and fuel shortages in their country.

The Koreas were divided into the communist North and the capitalist South in 1945. They fought the Korean War in 1950-53 and never signed a formal peace treaty.