North Koreans flee across border

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The Independent Online

Twelve North Koreans have arrived in Seoul after escaping their hunger–stricken communist homeland.

Twelve North Koreans have arrived in Seoul after escaping their hunger–stricken communist homeland, South Korea's main intelligence agency said.

They brought to 95 the number of North Koreans to defect to South Korea this year. Last year, 312 North Koreans fled to South Korea, up sharply from 148 in 1999.

The latest defectors included four factory workers, two students, five jobless people and an infant, the National Intelligence Service said. Five of them were relatives of North Koreans who defected to South Korea earlier, it said.

They have been living in hiding in a "third country" after fleeing North Korea one to four years ago, it said. South Korea uses the term "third country" to avoid diplomatic rows.

Most North Korean defectors come through China. Tens of thousands of North Koreans are believed to have fled to China in search of food. Many of them reportedly want to come to South Korea.

Since 1995, the North has depended on outside aid to feed its 22 million people.

The Korean Peninsula was divided into the communist North and pro–Western South in 1945. Their 1950–53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, and their border remains sealed.

Inter–Korean relations, however, have improved significantly following a historic summit in June.

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