Surge in defections from North Korea

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The Independent Online

The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea has surged because of economic suffering in the North, with more than 10,000 defections over the past three years, South Korea's government claims.

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, the Unification Ministry said. The total stands now at 20,050.

Ministry official Han Dong-ki said the rise in defections reflects North Korea's worsening economy. North Korea has relied on outside food aid since natural disasters and mismanagement wrecked its economy in the mid-1990s, when an estimated two million people died of famine. The North's troubles are thought to have worsened after an attempt at currency reform last year.