November 14, 2016 13:02
The number of North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea has crossed the 30,000 mark. The Unification Ministry on Sunday said the total now stands at 30,005 after seven arrived here via a third country that afternoon.
The first defector arrived in South Korea in June 1962, and their number exceeded 10,000 in February 2006 and 20,000 mark in November 2010, an exponential curve.
Defections declined after a peak of 2,914 in 2009 because surveillance was tightened, but this year 1,155 defectors arrived from January to October, up about 18 percent on-year.
The numbers ballooned during the famine of the 1990s, when more than a million North Koreans starved to death. At the time they fled hunger, but now more and more cite disaffection with the regime.
More and more members of the elite make their way to the South. Some 66.8 percent said they were upper or middle class when in the North in 2014-2016, up from 23.5 percent in 1999-2001.
"Their children's education and future are main reasons for officials to flee the North," a ministry official said.
"North Korean officials stationed overseas are most worried about orders from Pyongyang to return with their children who are studying in foreign countries," a source said. "Foreign-educated children will most likely to fail to adapt to a life in Pyongyang."
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