Numbers from North to reach 20,000

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Numbers from North to reach 20,000

The number of North Korean defectors settling in South Korea is expected to pass the 20,000 mark as early as late this month, the Ministry of Unification said yesterday.

A total of 19,569 North Koreans, many of them women, have defected to South Korea as of the end of August this year since the 1950-53 Korean War, according to the ministry. With an average of 200 defectors per year arriving in the South, the figure is likely to top 20,000 by early next month, it said.

North Koreans have been leaving their impoverished homeland, usually seeking refuge first in China before finding a way to South Korea via a third country.

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said Tuesday that some 100,000 North Koreans are hiding in China. Aid groups say there are at least 200,000.

The number of North Korean defectors per year jumped in the 1990s, ministry records showed, from just a few early on to 52 in 1994 and 148 in 1999. The percentage of female defectors also increased from less than 50 percent through 2000 to an average of up to 77 percent in 2007-2009.

“Female defectors have more mobility and have better means of earning a living when hiding in China,” a ministry official said.

More than 65 percent of defectors live in the Seoul area.

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