Several training centres for marines, ground troops and army reservists, including those in Gyeonggi province surrounding the capital Seoul, have been using the pictures as targets, a ministry spokesman said.
“The ministry will send a directive to the military to refrain from using such targets and to use standard targets,” the spokesman said.
Several local media outlets on Tuesday published pictures of targets depicting Kim Jong-Il, his late father and founding president Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son and heir apparent Kim Jong-Un.
A military official quoted by Chosun Ilbo newspaper said the practice was aimed at “boosting battle spirit” following the North’s bombardment of a border island last November that killed four South Koreans.
South Korea also accuses the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives, a charge it denies.
The ministry spokesman who was contacted Wednesday gave no reason for the decision to stop using the Kims as targets. But analysts said Seoul may be trying to avoid a further strain in already tense relations.
Disrespecting portraits of the ruling family would be a grave crime in the communist North, where the Kims are at the centre of a massive personality cult.
Official media in 2007 carried approving accounts of parents who sacrificed children to save such portraits during floods.