North Korean defections on pace for 7-year low

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North Korean defections on pace for 7-year low

The number of North Koreans defecting to the South is expected to hit the lowest level in seven years this year due to the communist country’s tightened border control under its new leadership, the Ministry of Unification said yesterday.

The number of North Koreans fleeing to the South reached 1,086 from January through September, 783 of them women, the ministry said.

By the year’s end, the total number of North Korean refugees in 2012 is expected to hit 1,440, the first annual figure below 2,000 in seven years.

North Korean refugees coming to the South exceeded 1,000 a year for the first time in 2001 during the Kim Dae-jung administration, known widely for its engagement policy toward the North.

Since then, the annual number steadily grew to hit 2,000 in 2006 and was 2,553 for 2007, 2,804 for 2008, 2,914 for 2009, 2,401 for 2010 and 2,706 for 2011, according to ministry data. The estimated 2012 figure is on par with the level 0f 1,382 registered in 2005.

This year’s decrease is mainly attributable to the North’s tightened grip on the areas bordering China, the main defection route, government officials said.

The death of leader Kim Jong-il last December has affected the country’s political stability, causing the communist country to tighten its border control, they said.

China’s internationally denounced repatriation of North Korean refugees has also resulted in both China and the North strengthening border security.

Yonhap

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