Only 360 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in the first quarter this year, the Unification Ministry said Thursday.
From 2006 until 2012, the annual figure stood between 2,500 and 3,000, but it fell to an annual average of about 1,500 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took power.
A ministry official said that the number has dropped because the regime has cracked down on defections. "It has tightened border security and is bringing defectors back to the country," the official added.
Last year, defectors on average earned W1.41 million (US$1=W1,024) in South Korea, just 64 percent of the country's average pay of W2.18 million. Unemployment among defectors stood at 9.7 percent, more than three times the average of 2.7 percent.
"Defectors often find it difficult to adapt to the competitive capitalist system, but they also face a lot of discrimination," a government official said.