The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea dropped to its lowest in nearly two decades last year, Seoul said Monday, continuing a downward trend as Pyongyang tightens controls on movement.
About 1,047 North Koreans arrived in the democratic South last year, down from 1,137 in 2018, according to data released by the unification ministry. This was the lowest figure since 2001. (This number 1,047 relates specifically to those arriving in the South, rather than those leaving the North.)
The vast majority of defectors from the impoverished North go first to China. They sometimes stay there for several years before making their way to the South, often via a third country.
Arrivals to South Korea peaked at 2,914 in 2009, but have mostly declined since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came into power in late 2011.
Women account for the lion’s share of defectors, making up around 81 per cent of last year’s arrivals. It is easier for women to leave the North as men all have assigned jobs, making any absence easier to spot for the authorities.