North defectors dropped by nearly half in 2012

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North defectors dropped by nearly half in 2012

The number of North Koreans who fled from poverty and political oppression in the communist country and defected to the South nearly halved last year compared with the previous year due mainly to tightened border security there, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry yesterday.

A total of 1,508 North Koreans defected from their country and entered South Korea during 2012, compared with the corresponding figure of 2,706 in 2011, according to the ministry data.

The 2012 figure is the first to drop below the 2,000-level since 2006. Inflows of North Korean defectors reached the highest level in 2009 with 2,929 coming to the South.

A total of 215 North Koreans defected to the South in December, the highest monthly number for 2012, while the lowest number of 84 North Koreans came here during February, according to the data.

Officials attributed last year’s sharp decrease to the North’s border control, which was tightened significantly following the death of leader Kim Jong-il in December 2011 due to security concerns. “The number of North Korean defectors to the South is not likely to jump in the near future given the (small) number of defectors now waiting in China or other countries to come to South Korea,” one Seoul government official said.

The ministry said a total of 24,613 North Korean defectors are now residing in the South. Yonhap
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