The number of North Korean defectors who have arrived in South Korea over the years will reach the 30,000 mark this month, the unification ministry said Sunday.
“As of late October, there are 29,948 former North Koreans in the South so the 30,000 mark should be reached around Nov. 15-16,” an official from the ministry in charge of formulating North Korean policy said.
He said Seoul plans to mark the occasion with a new resettlement policy that will better help escapees integrate into South Korean society. The new plan aims to facilitate greater social participation of North Korea defectors, help them find jobs and concentrate on helping youngsters assimilate into schools and their studies.
There has been a 21 percent spike in defectors reaching the country this year compared to 2015. Official data showed that 2016 marked the first year since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took power in late 2011 that the number of defectors increased noticeably. Initially, a drop in numbers was attributed to tighter border control along the North Korea-China frontier which is not generally heavily guarded.
Official sources attributed this year’s increase to the “reign of terror” perpetrated by Kim, and tighter international sanctions that is forcing North Korean workers living abroad to repatriate more money.
Those defectors who cited freedom and discontent over North Korean politics reached 87.8 percent in the 2014-16 period, from 33.3 percent before 2001, and 42.1 percent in the 2002-2005 period.