Number of North Korean defectors drops

Number of North Korean defectors drops

Agency News

Seoul, Sep 30: The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea has dropped under Kim Jong-un since he came to power seven years ago.

Spokesman for the ruling South Korean Democratic Party Park Byeong-seug, citing data from the South's unification ministry, said there had been 1,127 defections last year compared to 2,706 in 2011.

Mr Park said tighter border controls between North Korea and China and higher rates charged by people smugglers were key factors, a report in BBC said.

"North Koreans might be discouraged from defecting from their country because of stricter border control on the North Korean-Chinese border and rising costs of hiring brokers."

The vast majority of defectors from the North are eventually offered South Korean citizenship.

More than 30,000 North Koreans have illegally crossed the border since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Most flee via China, which has the longest border with North Korea and is easier to cross than the heavily protected Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.

China regards the defectors as illegal migrants rather than refugees and often forcibly repatriates them.

Relations between the North and the South,who are still technically at war have markedly improved in recent months.

Earlier this month, the leaders of the two countries met in Pyongyang for talks that centred on the stalled denuclearisation negotiations.

This came after June's historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore, when they agreed in broad terms to work towards the nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

But on Saturday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho blamed US sanctions for the lack of progress since then, BBC report added. (UNI)