Number of North Korean Defectors Surges Past 20K

As economic conditions worsen, more flee to South Korea
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 15, 2010 9:31 AM CST
North Korean Defectors Surge Past 20K as Economic Conditions Worsen and More Flee South
South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-tack is greeted by young North Korean defectors in a classroom at Yeomyung School in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010.   (Jin Sung-chul)

The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea has surged in recent years because of economic suffering in the North, with more than 10,000 defections over the past three years, South Korea's Unification Ministry said today. About as many North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of 2007 as the number who had fled over the entire previous period since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice: The overall total stands now at 20,050.

A ministry official said the rise in defections reflects the worsening economy in North Korea, which has relied on outside food aid since natural disasters and mismanagement wrecked its economy in the mid-1990s, when an estimated 2 million people died of famine. The North's economic troubles are thought to have worsened following a botched attempt at currency reform last year. Most defectors reach South Korea after crossing over a shared border with China, where activists say tens of thousands of North Koreans are hiding. (Read more China-North Korea border stories.)

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