July 05, 2011 12:38
A Chinese crackdown on North Korean defectors there has in fact shortened the time it takes refugees to make it to South Korea. The Unification Ministry on Monday said 52 percent of the 1,428 North Koreans who came to South Korea in the first half of this year took a year or less to complete the journey, significantly more than the 30 percent in 2009 and 39 percent in 2010.
"Two or three years ago, North Koreans generally spent five to eight years in China before they made the move to a third country," a ministry official said. "But since China cracked down last year, they've been afraid of arrest and repatriation, so they tend to minimize their stay in China and come to the South sooner."
After a sudden 19-percent drop last year, the number of North Koreans who come to the South is growing again. It steadily increased until 2009 to hit 2,927. But amid growing unrest, the regime cracked down on defectors and it seems asked China to help. But the Chinese crackdowns simply hastened defectors' move to South Korea, so the figure skyrocketed again this year and is likely to exceed 3,000 by the end of this year, according to the ministry official.
Meanwhile, 47 percent of the new arrivals in the first half of this year had family members already living in the South, up from 36.4 percent from last year. Those who were accompanied by their families also took up a bigger share with 49 percent, up 10 percent from last year. The official said the reason is that many whole families are escaping as they see no hope in the isolated country and plan to go to South Korea from the start. "It's not just because of economic hardship," he added.
There are a total of 21,788 North Korean defectors in the South, of whom 75 percent are between the age of 20 and 49, and 72 percent women.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com