Numbers of North Korean defectors are rising again, and the government here expects them to top 1,400 this year.
So far this year some 1,268 defectors have arrived in South Korea, up 16.7 percent on-year, according to the Unification Ministry on Wednesday. In total 30,062 have settled here over some five decades. The first defector came in 1962.
"If this trend continues, the number of defectors this year will reach 1,400," a ministry official said. "This is the first year when their number has surged since Kim Jong-un came into power."
The annual number peaked at 2,914 in 2009, but since Kim took power in 2011 it declined due to tightened controls, surveillance and punishment, dropping to 1,276 in 2015.
Their number apparently rose again because of Kim's reign of terror and harsher sanctions by the international community. Many are part of the elite, which seems to be becoming increasingly disaffected, and some have buckled under the burden of drumming up hard currency for Kim overseas.
"Many elite defectors fled the North due to their concerns for the education and future of their children," the official added.
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