Archive for the ‘2015 Emigration Statistics’ Category

Number of N.K. defectors halves in Kim Jong-un era

Monday, January 4th, 2016

According to Yonhap:

The number of North Korean defectors to South Korea has halved since the launch of the Kim Jong-un regime, apparently attributable to the communist nation’s tougher border control, the Unification Ministry said Monday.

A total of 1,277 North Koreans entered South Korea via China and other countries in 2015, down 52.8 percent from 2,706 recorded in 2011.

Kim took the helm of the North in late 2011 soon after the death of his father Kim Jong-il.

The number of North Korean defectors settling in the South first topped 1,000 in 2001, and it had steadily increased to 2,914 in 2009.

But it has rapidly declined to 1,502 in 2012, 1,514 in 2014, and 1,397 in 2014, according to the ministry amid North Korea’s intensified crackdown on those attempting to flee the country.

The ratio of women has soared. More than 80 percent of the North Korean defectors who came to the South in 2015 were female.

Women, especially those working at markets, seem to be less subject to surveillance than men with regular jobs. It’s also easier for women to get jobs, like housekeeping, in China and to make money needed for coming to the South.

Read the full story here:
Number of N.K. defectors halves after Kim Jong-un assumes power


DPRK Defectors down in 2015

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

According to the Korea Times:

The number of North Koreans who defected to South Korea this year fell below the monthly average of 100 for the first time in 12 years, the Ministry of Unification said.

Ministry officials attributed the decline to sharply tightened security along the Sino-Korean border and to an improved economic situation in the North by reinvigorated private markets, among other things, which they said are some of the biggest changes since Kim Jong-un took office four years ago.

According to the ministry tally, the number of North Koreans who were officially tagged with the defector status in the first 10 months of this year totaled 978, for a monthly average of about 98. It is the first time the figure has fallen below 100 since 2003. A ministry official estimated the total would not exceed 1,200 this year, less than half that of 2009 when the number of defectors peaked at 2,914.

The biggest reason for the decline of escapees is sharply enhanced border security by toughening the punishment of negligent or corrupt guards while more handsomely rewarding guards who arrest would-be defectors. This pushed up the amount of the bribes escapees must pay the guards to cross the Tumen River from about 5 million South Korean won to as high as 17 million won in some areas, officials said.

Other analysts find the reason in the gradual improvement of economic conditions in the isolationist state. “There are more than 400 markets in North Korea,” said one researcher at a state think tank. “As residents began to make their own money, they feel it far less necessary to risk their lives to get out of North Korea.”

Some North Korea watchers also ascribe the recent surge in the defection of the North Korea elite, including party cadre and diplomats, to revitalized markets in the North. “As the North Korean markets expanded, the fights among the power elite have also intensified to take larger shares of financial gains,” said Prof. Cho Dong-ho of Ehwa University in an interview with Chosun Ilbo daily. “Those who lose in these battles or are found to be involved in corruption have increasingly deserted their country.”

During a parliamentary audit last month, Lee Byung-ho, chief of the National Intelligence Service, also said, “Up to 46 North Korean diplomats have left the North and entered South Korea over the past three years.” Some ranking officials of the Workers’ Party escaped to the South along with their entire families based on elaborate plans they had set up over several years. There are even defectors who have several billions of South Korean won, bought apartments in southern Seoul and drive imported cars.

Read the full story here:
Number of N. Korean defectors on steady decline
Korea Times
Choi Sung-jin


20 DPRK officials defected in 2015

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Twenty North Korean officials have defected to South Korea so far this year, the National Intelligence Service told a National Assembly audit Tuesday.

They were mostly diplomats but also include a high-ranking officer from the powerful Army politburo.

NIS chief Lee Byung-ho told lawmakers the number of North Korean officials defecting from overseas is steadily increasing. Lee added that all 20 who defected this year now live in South Korea.

Although they rank lower than the late Hwang Jang-yop, a senior Workers Party secretary, some are from the elite class, Lee said.

A North Korea source said the Army politburo member defected in April, when he was sent to Beijing for a trading company operated by the politburo.

The Army politburo is in charge of monitoring the activities of all North Korean soldiers and is considered a central part of leader Kim Jong-un regime. Its leader, Hwang Pyong-so, is the second-most powerful man in the state.

Early this year, a mid-level diplomat based at the Hong Kong office of Room 39, the Workers Party office that handles Kim’s slush funds, defected with his family.

Presumably these individuals did not go to Hanawon so their numbers will need to be added to the official numbers released by the Ministry of Unification.

Read the full story here:
20 N.Korean Officials Defected to S.Korea This Year
Choson Ilbo


North Korean defectors in the USA

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

According to UPI:

North Koreans, 186 in total, have resettled in the United States since 2006, two years after the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Radio Free Asia reported on Monday the refugees now live in 18 states, and 26 of the 186 settled in Kentucky.

Next, California is home to 25 recent arrivals, followed by New York at 19, Colorado, 17, with Arizona, Virginia, each home to 15 new North Korean defectors. The remaining population is divided among Washington, Idaho, Texas, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland and Massachusetts, each state home to less than 10 North Koreans. In 2014, the United States granted asylum to 15 North Koreans, and five resettled in California and three in Utah. Others have taken up residence in Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky and Georgia.

Read the full story here:
More North Korean refugees in the U.S. calling the ‘Bluegrass State’ home
Elizabeth Shim


ROK loses track of 688 DPRK defectors

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on Sunday said almost 700 North Korean defectors’ whereabouts are unknown, casting concerns over the country’s settlement support system.

The ministry said it has failed to locate 688 North Korean defectors, which accounts for 2.6 percent of the 26,000 defectors in South Korea, with 664 of them currently presumed to be overseas.

The ministry’s data also showed the number of North Korean defectors seeking to resettle in another country came to 22 this year, up from 15 last year.

There are also 22 imprisoned defectors, while 14 others are dead or defected back to the North.

“South Korea needs to provide customized support and social integration programs for North Korean defectors who crossed the border for freedom and abundance,” Rep. Won Hye-young of the main opposition party said.

Read the full story here:
Almost 700 N. Korean defectors’ whereabouts unknown


A new defector survey about market trade in North Korea, and what it says (maybe) about Kim Jong-un

Friday, August 28th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

In Wall Street Journal, Jeyup Kwaak reports on a new defector survey by Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (08-26-2015) (added emphasis):

The Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies annually surveys more than 100 North Koreans who defected in the prior calendar year. The results provide firsthand insight into developments in the isolated state, though its researchers said they shouldn’t be read as generalized facts due to the small pool of respondents.


The latest survey, of 146 North Koreans who escaped in 2014, shows significant growth from the previous year in the number of people saying they conducted private business activities and paid bribes to enable them. A little more than half said they received no money from the state, down from last year’s survey but up from the one released in 2013.

Experts say between half and three-quarters of North Koreans’ income comes from quasi-illegal market activities, such as trade of basic goods smuggled in from China, but sporadic crackdowns by national or regional security officials lead to irregular business and bribery. Defectors say officials often collect fees when they set up a booth at a market.

The results themselves do not present a new trend. Several previous defector studies indicate that markets are perhaps the most important source of income and sustenance for many (if not most) North Koreans. However, a few things are interesting to note.

The links may not be entirely clear, but it is at least symbolic that the current survey, albeit with a very small number of interviewees, suggests that support for Kim Jong-un and the leadership may not be waning, at the same time as market activity continues unabated. This at least calls into question an assumption that sometimes occurs that market trade would lead people to become more critical of the regime.

Again, too much shouldn’t be read too much into a small study with participants that probably are not geographically or socially representative of North Korea as a whole. Defectors as a group rarely are. But perhaps one could imagine that market trade being so institutionalized and regulated by the regime would make it more synonymous with the regime itself. I.e., if market trading is seen as something positive, maybe this reflects positively on the regime as well — perhaps the market has been co-opted.

The article also reminds us of the rather peculiar combination of dynamics seen under Kim Jong-un. On the one hand, market trade seems to continue unabated domestically, and initiatives like the new special economic zones and the agricultural reforms show that there is at the very minimum some new thinking going on.

But on the other hand, border controls have been tightened to a degree rarely seen since the mid-1990s, according to defector reports. Just today, DailyNK reports (in Korean) that resident in the Sino-Korean borderlands have seen their access to the Amnok river, often used for laundry by locals, increasingly restricted as of late. As the WSJ writes,

Just 614 North Koreans made it to the South in the first half of this year, compared with 2,706 in the 2011 calendar year, according to the most recent ministry data.

The drop in North Koreans who visited China on legal visas so far this year should perhaps also be seen in this context.

Taken together, the tightened border controls on the one hand, and the seemingly changing (one could say “progressive”) rhetoric on economic matters on the other, paint a mixed picture.

In the early days of Kim Jong-un, the question was whether he was a reformer or a hardliner. A few years into his rule, it seems he might be neither and both at the same time.


DPRK defectors in the USA

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

According to Arirang News:

It has emerged that five North Korean defectors entered the United States as refugees during the months of October and November.

A U.S. State Department report published on Monday shows the five individuals were admitted into the states of Colorado, Illinois and Utah.

Four North Korean refugees were admitted into the U.S in July.

The number of North Korean refugees allowed into the U.S. peaked in 2008 at 37 and has been on a downslide since then, recording just eight last year.

Since 2006, when North Korean nationals were first granted refugee status in the U.S., a total of one-hundred-91 have started new lives in the United States.

Read the full story here:
Five refugees from N. Korea entered U.S. in Oct. & Nov.: U.S. State Dept.
Arirang News


DPRK emigration numbers in 2015

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

The portion of female North Korean defectors topped 80 percent this year, government data showed Sunday, apparently because North Korean women are under less severe scrutiny by the communist country.

The number of female North Koreans who came to the South reached 444 in the January-May period, accounting for 83 percent of the 535 North Koreans who came to the South, according to the unification ministry.

The data was compiled tentatively as the government’s background checks for North Korean defectors have not been completed, it said. Around 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea in search of freedom so far.

Since the portion of female North Korean defectors topped the 50 percent mark for the first time in 2002, the weight has been on the rise, the data showed.

In particular, since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took office in late 2011, the portion has increased above the 70 percent mark. The corresponding data reached 75.6 percent in 2013 and came in at 78.2 percent in 2014.

Experts said that it might be easier for women to flee the communist country as they are relatively less scrutinized by North Korean authorities.

Meanwhile, the number of North Koreans who defect to the South has been on the decline since 2011, the data showed.

In 2014, the number of defectors reached 1,396, down 48.4 percent from 2011, it said.

“Regardless of sex, the number of North Korean defectors has been falling,” a unification ministry official said. “The trend is likely to continue this year as well.”

While the number of North Koreans coming south has been on the decline since Kim Jong-un came to power, there has been a flurry of media reports recently that indicate that the number of high-level defectors leaving the country is on the increase.

According to the Chosun Ilbo (2015-7-2):

About a dozen senior North Korean officials have defected in recent years because they feared for their lives in leader Kim Jong-un’s purges, a source said Wednesday.

The defectors were working in China and Southeast Asia, some charged with earning hard currency for the regime.

Several have already arrived in South Korea while others are staying in a third country.

Early this year, a mid-ranking official who had been dispatched to Hong Kong from Room 39, a Workers Party office that handles Kim’s slush funds, sought asylum in South Korea with his family.

He reportedly told investigators here he was terrified of Kim’s draconian purges, which saw senior officials executed by anti-aircraft gun, and that officials left in North Korea find it almost impossible to flee because of tight controls but those working overseas can find some opportunities to defect.

Last year, a senior official of Taesong Bank, who had handled Kim’s slush funds in Siberia, fled to South Korea with millions of dollars. Even a senior official of the State Security Department fled the North and arrived here. According to the National Security Service here, the defection particularly upset Kim.

An army general has been staying in a third country since he fled the North recently, according to sources. The general was reportedly involved in the two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007.

The defections highlight the climate of fear among senior apparatchiks since the brutal execution of Kim’s uncle and one-time eminence grise Jang Song-taek, as well as that of former armed forces minister Hyon Yong-chol.

In a report to the National Assembly, the NIS claimed that the North executed more than 70 senior party, government and military officials by firing squad since Kim took power.

And According to Yonhap (2015-7-6):

North Korea may continue to see its officials desert the communist country to settle abroad down the road, but the exodus is not likely to lead to the collapse of the regime, experts said Monday.

North Korea is believed to be coping with an increased number of defections by government officials as of late with frequent fears of purging and punishment haunting North Korean officials under leader Kim Jong-un.

About 10 North Korean military and party officials have reportedly fled the communist country recently in their pursuit of asylum in South Korea or in a third country.

Those defectors reportedly included a mid-ranking North Korean party official who sought asylum in the South with his family early this year while he was managing slush funds in Hong Kong for leader Kim.

Another high-ranking military official also reportedly has been staying in a country outside of South and North Korea since fleeing the communist country.

The recent outflow may continue in the future as more officials terrified of Kim’s “reign of terror” are likely to renounce their allegiance to the communist country, experts noted.

“For the time being, North Korean officials are likely to continue to flee the communist country or seek asylum, which would weaken the regime of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un,” said Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, also noted, “Desertion by these people may take place intermittently in the process of solidifying the Kim Jong-un regime and securing the regime’s stability.”

Since taking power in late 2011 after his father Kim Jong-il’s sudden death, the junior Kim has resorted to unusually brutal means to solidify his power base.

In late 2013, Jang Song-thaek, the husband of Kim’s aunt and once the country’s second most powerful official, was executed on charges of treason, along with many other officials with close ties with Jang.

Former defense chief Hyon Yong-chol was also purged in late April apparently due to his disloyalty to Kim.

Still, experts stressed that the terror-driven exodus may not immediately lead to a collapse of the Kim regime although it is likely to resort to military provocations outside the country in order to quell potential political instability inside.

“If Kim’s reign of terror prolongs, his governing style could bring about an instability in the communist country,” said Jung Sang-don, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA). “Then, there is a possibility that North Korea could make provocations in a bid to tide over its internal problems.”

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, also dismissed the view that a series of defections by officials meant instability in Kim’s regime, saying that there have been no signs of abnormal activities among the North Korean military power or other citizens.

Here is coverage in the Korea Times.

Read the full story here:
Portion of female N. Korean defectors tops 80 pct this year: data