Asia-Pacific

Kim Jong-il portrait used as South Korean army target‎

A firing target depicting North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung (top L), current leader Kim Jong-il (R) and the latter's third son Kim Jong-un
Image caption A firing target showing Kim Jong-il (top R), his youngest son, and the leader's late father (top L)

South Korea has said it will tell its army training units to stop using photographs of North Korea's ruling family for target practice.

Military units have admitted to using the pictures of Kim Jong-il, his youngest son, and the leader's late father as targets during firing drills.

Images of the portraits positioned in the crosshairs of a target have been splashed across the local press here.

The reports have surfaced at a tense time in inter-Korean relations.

South Korea's defence ministry initially said it was up to the discretion of individual commanders to decide what images their troops shot at, but government sources now say they are putting an end to the practice, and will be instructing all units to stop using target papers printed with pictures of the North's first family.

One military official was quoted in a local newspaper as saying the practice was intended to "boost battle spirit" following the bombardment of a South Korean island by the North last year.

Attitudes within the South Korean military have reportedly hardened since that attack, which came less than a year after the sinking of a South Korean warship close to the border with North Korea.