Report Tracks N. Korean Defectors
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Nearly 4,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, three quarters of them in the past five years, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a report submitted Sunday.
A total of 2,958 North Koreans, or 77 percent of the total 3,834 defectors, fled their country and arrived in South Korea after 1998, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The ministry expects the number to rise as thousands of North Koreans are believed to be living in hiding in China, seeking a chance to come to South Korea.
Most of the defectors come to South Korea via China, which shares a long land border with the impoverished communist North.
Last year, 1,141 North Koreans defected to South Korea, up from 583 in 2001, 312 in 2000 and 148 in 1999.
Since 1995, North Korea has depended on outside aid to feed its 22 million people.
The Koreas were divided in 1945, and their border remains tightly sealed.