A total of 1,154 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea from January to October this year, the Unification Ministry said on Sunday. That was an increase of 21 percent over the same period last year.
As of the end of October some 29,948 defectors had settled down here, so the total is expected to pass the 30,000 mark in mid-November.
Annual defections declined after a peak of 2,914 in 2009 because surveillance was tightened and the North's economy improved slightly since Kim Jong-un came into power in late 2011, but the number has now risen again.
"It seems that more North Koreans fled because the economy worsened under stronger international sanctions and they wanted to break away from the tyranny of Kim Jong-un," a ministry official said.
In a poll of defectors who completed courses at the Hanawon halfway house, 13.3 percent said they came here because of hunger and economic hardship, down from 70.6 percent in 2001.
But 86.7 percent said they wanted more freedom and became disillusioned with the regime, up from barely one-third 15 years ago.
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