June 07, 2016 09:43
Some 590 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in the first five months of this year, 16 percent more than in the same period last year, the Unification Ministry said Sunday.
This is the first time since Kim Jong-un took power in the North in late 2011 that there has been a notable increase despite more stringent controls.
Numbers dwindled over past years from 2,706 in 2011 to 1,276 in 2015. A ministry official said numbers could reach 1,500 this year if the trend continues.
North Koreans are affected by harsh international sanctions imposed in the wake of the regime's latest nuclear test, and a forced labor drive ahead of a Workers Party congress in May has been widely unpopular.
Altogether some 29,380 North Koreans have defected over the years, reaching 30,000 in September or October this year on current showing.
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