The biggest group of North Korean defectors who came to South Korea in the first half of this year came from Ryanggang Province on the border with China.
Previously most came from North Hamgyong Province, which also borders China, but there has been a crackdown on escape routes.
Ryanggang Province is home to some symbolic revolutionary sites, including the official birthplace of former leader Kim Jong-il who was actually born in Siberia, so the exodus is particularly embarrassing for the regime.
The Unification Ministry on Friday said 197 defectors came from Ryanggang Province in the first half, followed by North Hamgyong Provinc, Pyongyang, South Pyongan Province, Kangwon Province and Jagang Province.
The number of defectors from Ryanggang Province has been growing steadily since Kim Jong-un's succession to the throne was announced in 2009.
Home to symbolic Mt. Baekdu, the mythical origin of the Korean nation, Ryanggang Province has a little arable land and less manufacturing than other parts, so poverty there is particularly grinding now that all resources are channeled to Pyongyang or into the North's arms programs.
The regime is apparently trying to stem the tide of defections from the province by putting up miles of barbed wire and resettling people from the immediate border area.