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S. Korea: 20 N. Koreans Defected

February 22, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Twenty North Koreans recently defected to South Korea, the country’s main intelligence agency said Friday.

The defectors included a teacher, 17 workers and farmers, and two jobless men, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said in a statement.

They had lived in hiding in an unidentified third country, seeking an opportunity to travel to the South after fleeing communist North Korea between February 1997 and June 2001, the agency said.

No further information was released.

Most North Korean defectors travel through China. But South Korean authorities usually don’t identify China out of respect for that country’s relations with North Korea.

The latest defectors brought to 74 the number of North Koreans who have fled to the South this year. Last year, 583 North Koreans defected to South Korea, up from 312 in 2000.

The Korean peninsula was divided in 1945. The 1950-53 Korean War ended without a peace treaty, and the border remains heavily armed and patrolled.

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