For the first time in 12 years, fewer than 100 North Koreans are defecting to South Korea each month, that is less than 1200 per year. Last year’s figure was 1,400, with the highest being 2,914 in 2009.
North Korea watchers point to tougher crackdowns along the border with China since Kim Jong-un took power but also to rising living standards thanks to burgeoning open-air markets in the socialist state.
Lee Soo-seok of the Institute for National Security Strategy said, “The spread of open-air markets has reduced the number of North Koreans who live on the edge of starvation, and tightened security along the Chinese border has made it more difficult to defect.”
As of the end of October of this year, 28,497 North Korean defectors had settled in South Korea.