Archive for the ‘Emigration statistics’ Category

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
Yonhap
2015-7-5

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Lankov on the cost of emigrating

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

1,516 North Koreans who arrived in South Korea in 2013–approximately the 2012 number. In 2011, 2,706 defected. Why the drop off? Lankov writes in NK News:

From 2010-11, the number of military patrols on the hitherto poorly protected border with China increased dramatically. Military personnel are also frequently rotated to ensure that soldiers do not develop overly cozy relations with the locals, and severe punishments for graft have been introduced.

Additionally, in 2010 Chinese authorities – obviously prompted by the North Koreans – began to build a tall wire fence along the border with North Korea. This fence is not a formidable obstacle, nonetheless it still makes the act of crossing the border more risky. The construction of the fence was completed in 2012, so nowadays the border between two states appears much better protected than ever.

The “defection market” reacted to the new situation in the most certain way. In the past one could cross the border for free or, at worst, would pay the border guards a small bribe of $30-50 (smugglers had to pay a bit more). Now the price increased to the hitherto unthinkable $3,000-5,000 – and one still has to pay an additional $3,000 to a professional guide who will ensure safe transit to a South Korean embassy in Mongolia or Southeast Asia. The steep rise indicates how much more dangerous the defection has become under the new conditions. It also means that that even under the best possible circumstances one needs some $8,000-9,000 to arrange even a simple defection.

In the original article, Lankov also discusses other tactics used to reduce the number of defections.

Read the full story here:
North-South migration, part 4: After 2011, the stream dries out again?
NK News
Andrei Lankov
2014-2-19

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DPRK visitors to China in 2013

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

UPDATE 2 (2014-1-21): According to Yonhap:

The number of North Korean visitors to China rose about 11 percent on-year to top 200,000 for the first time in 2013, Chinese government data showed Tuesday, in the latest sign that the flow of people between the allies was unaffected by geopolitical tensions.

About 206,600 North Koreans traveled to China last year, compared with 186,000 in 2012, the data from China’s National Tourism Administration showed.

It was the first time that the annual number of North Korean tourists to China exceeded 200,000 since the Chinese tourism administration began releasing data in 2005.

NK News reports additional data:

93,300 work visas were given to North Korean citizens[.]

Goeffrey See comments that part of the increase can be explained by repeat travelers.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean tourists to China rise 11 pct in 2013
Yonhap
2014-1-21

Work visas for North Koreans going to China up 17.2%
NK News
Oliver Hoffman
2014-1-21

UPDATE 1 (2013-7-18): According to the Japan Times:

The overall number of visitors to China dropped 5.2 percent to 12.75 million in the six-month period.

But North Korean visitors to China increased 11.7 percent to 99,100, the highest since 2005 on a first-half basis.

Nearly half of the North Koreans came to China to work, mainly at factories and restaurants. These North Koreans are low-cost labor for China, while the data signal that North Korea continues to actively use its manpower to earn foreign currency.

Read More here:
China sees 26% fewer Japanese visitors in first half but North Korean arrivals up by 12%
Japan Times
2013-7-18

ORIGINAL POST (2013-4-26): Number of DPRK visitors to China up 14% in first quarter 2013. According to Yonhap:

About 45,800 North Koreans traveled to China, the North’s closest ally, in the January-March period, compared with 40,200 recorded in the same period in 2012, according to the report by the Washington-based Voice of America (VOA), which cited data from China.

The increase is seen as showing that North Korea-China relations have not been disturbed by China’s recent shift to take an active role in implementing the U.N. sanctions against the North, adopted following the country’s December rocket launch and its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

The majority of the North Korean travelers to China, 48.3 percent, crossed the border to work in the world’s second-biggest economy and 25.8 percent went there for business purposes, according to the report. Only 1.5 percent were on trips to China for tourism.

Out of the total visitors, 78 percent were male North Koreans while 44.5 percent of the total were aged between 45 and 64.

Read the full story here:
Number of N. Korean visitors to China up 14 pct in Q1
Yonhap
2013-4-26

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2013 DPRK defection numbers

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

UPDATE 1 (2014-1-13): Yonhap reports on the 2013 defection numbers:

The [Ministry of Unification], which handles inter-Korean affairs, said a total of 1,516 North Koreans settled in South Korea in 2013, up slightly from 2012 when 1,502 North Koreans arrived in the South, with women accounting for 76 percent of the total.

The ministry said South Korea is now home to 26,124 North Koreans.

And according to the Daily NK:

A total of 1516 North Koreans sought refuge in South Korea last year, bringing the total number of defectors living in the South to 26,124, 69% of whom are female.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-1-2): The Hankyoreh offers some decent data on DPRK defectors entering South Korea in 2013:

An estimated 1,500 North Korean refugees entered South Korea in 2013.

The estimate, which is roughly equivalent to the 2012 total, shows that the number has dwindled to less than 2,000 annually for the two years since Kim Jong-un took power in Pyongyang.

According to a Dec. 25 announcement by the Ministry of Unification, a total of 1,420 refugees had received protection authorization following government questioning as of November 2013. When the individuals currently undergoing questioning are factored in, the total number of refugees entering the country for the year is expected to be around 1,500 – roughly equivalent to the 1,502 refugees who came to South Korea in 2012.

The number would bring the total refugees arriving since the 1990s up to 26,100. The annual tally of refugees passed 2,000 for the first time in 2006. For five years, it remained in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, with 2,548 in 2007, 2,805 in 2008, 2,929 in 2009, 2,402 in 2010, and 2,706 in 2011.

But in 2012, the year the Kim Jong-un regime took over, the total fell to 1,500 a year, a drop of approximately 500 to 1,500.

Analysts said the decrease under the Kim regime was likely tied to stronger border defense aimed at securing the regime, along with more aggressive anti-defection policies, including actions to repatriate those who crossed the border.

Indeed, North Korea is known to have markedly stepped up its border defense since just after the 2011 death of Kim’s father and predecessor Kim Jong-il.

Another possible reason given for the drop was an improvement in food and economic conditions in North Korea in 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile, North Korea continues to adopt a proactive policy of readmitting refugees who left for South Korea. In 2013 alone, thirteen defected opted to leave the South to return to the North.

While I am perfectly willing to admit that some DPRK defectors living in the ROK might have returned home, I believe it is not accurate to assert “thirteen defected opted to leave the South to return to the North” without mentioning that the DPRK has the ability to threaten family members who remained in the North to draw defectors back to the land of their birth.

Read the full story here:
Total number has dipped since Kim Jong-un took power due to tighter border control and N. Korea welcoming some refugees back
Hankyoreh
Kim Kyu-won
2014-1-2

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DPRK National Nutrition Survey final report

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The official UN web page is here.

Here is the description:

Conducted in all provinces of DPRK from September 17th to October 17th, 2012, the National Nutrition Survey was a joint collaboration between DPRK Government, involving the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Child Nutrition Institute, the MOPH and the National Coordination Committee as well as WHO, WFP and UNICEF.

Amongst others, the results of the survey show that Stunting remains an area of great concern in DPRK. About 28% of Korean children are stunted (Chronic Malnutrition) with provincial disparities. Acute malnutrition (4%) is present and varies according to provinces but even if the prevalence is not alarming, support is still needed to treat these children because of the high mortality risk associated with acute malnutrition. The survey also provides detail on children’s and women’s feeding practices.

You can download a PDF of the report here.

I have added this report to my “DPRK Economics Statistics Page”.

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DPRK visitors to China in 2012

Friday, January 18th, 2013

UPDATE 1 (2013-1-18): According to the Daily NK:

The number of North Koreans visiting China legally reached a record high of 180,600 in 2012, an 18% increase over the 2011 figure of 152,300.

Radio Free Asia released the news today, citing Chinese statistics. According to the report, the most common reason for the visits was ‘employment’ (79,600, 44%) followed by ‘business’ (55,200, 31%).

The number visiting China for ‘business’ increased by roughly 10,900 over the 2011 figure, while the number of those visiting for ‘employment’ increased by 4,300.

According to RFA, “This is because of the greater number of exchanges and joint ventures going on between North Korea and China in the economic sector.”

Elsewhere in the statistics, 4,500 (2.5%) North Koreans also visited China last year for purposes of tourism and leisure, and 200 (0.1%) went to visit friends and relatives.

Read the full story here:
Legal North Korean Visitor Numbers Rise
Daily NK
Jeong Dae Sung
2013-1-18

ORIGINAL POST (2012-4-24): Number of visitors up in first quarter of 2012. According to Yonhap (via Korea Times):

The number of North Koreans visiting China in the first three months of the year surged more than 40 percent from a year ago, with the majority arriving for employment or business purposes, a report said Tuesday.

A total of 40,200 North Koreans visited the neighboring country in the first quarter, up 40.5 percent on-year, according to the Voice of America, which quoted data from the China National Tourism Administration.

About half, or 19,300 visitors, were seeking work in China’s manufacturing and dining industries, while another 10,800 visitors arrived for business purposes, the report said. Only 1,100 North Koreans toured China for sightseeing.

By age group, 19,100 visitors were aged between 45 and 64, followed by 17,200 people who were aged between 25 and 44.

Ferries transported the highest number of passengers at 17,400, while 9,300 people traveled by automobile.

The number of male visitors came to 33,200, or 83 percent of the total, far exceeding the number of females.

The data did not include defectors or other North Korean visitors who arrived by unofficial means, the report said.

See a report of North Korean visitors to China in 2011 here.

Read the full story here:
NK visitors to China swell in first quarter
Yonhap (via Korea Times)
2012-4-24

 

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DPRK imports CCTV cameras

Monday, January 14th, 2013

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea is tightening surveillance of the population using tens of thousands of Chinese-made surveillance cameras. According to Chinese customs data, the North imported a total of 16,420 CCTV cameras worth about US$1.66 million from China from January to November last year.

In 2009, the first year China published statistics on bilateral trade, the North imported a whopping 40,465 surveillance cameras from China. In 2010 the figure was 22,987 and in 2011 22,118. Altogether the North has imported over 100,000 cameras worth about $10 million.

Meanwhile, crude oil and oil products were the major products the North imported from China between January and November last year with a total value US$526 million. Next came naphtha products ($101.7 million), cargo trucks ($92.2 million), and flour ($58.8 million).

Read the full story here:
Chinese Cameras Help N.Korean Regime’s Surveillance
Choson Ilbo
2013-1-14

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Official Data Shed New Light on Pyongyang Population

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The Weekly Chosun has obtained detailed official records of some 2 million adult residents of the North Korean capital Pyongyang from a source in the North Korea-China border area. The data, which contains the names, date of birth and home addresses of 2,108,032 Pyongyang residents, was compiled by the North’s State Security Department in 2005.

The data does not include children up to age of 17 or an estimated 10,000 members of the elite including relatives of leader Kim Jong-il, or of soldiers stationed in Pyongyang from provincial areas, according to the source.

But it does include people in four districts that were excluded from the Pyongyang administrative area last year. According to official data published by South Korea’s Unification ministry based on the North’s Central Yearbook in February, Pyongyang’s population shrank by about 500,000 as a result of administrative restructuring. But the list shows only about 197,000 adults living in those four districts in 2005.

The difference of 300,000 is too big to make sense, even if the omitted child population is taken into consideration.

The most remarkable aspect of the data is the shortage of men. There are a mere 870,000 men on the list compared to 1.22 million women.

What caused the imbalance is not known but it is possible that many men are soldiers and therefore not counted. Another guess is that there are more women in the capital because they are shipped there for mass rallies.

A former senior North Korean official who defected to the South in 2007, said, “More than six out of every 10 Pyongyang residents are female. It’s mostly the elite who are allowed to live in Pyongyang. A lot of men have been moved out to the suburbs, but the women are mobilized for mass events, which explains the gender imbalance.”

Based on analysis of the records, the average marriage age is 27 years old. More than 80 percent of adults in Pyongyang were registered as married, compared to South Korea, where single households are on the rise. Some 410,000 or 20 percent of the total population in Pyongyang were unmarried and under 27 years old. Divorcees accounted for about 1 percent of the total population with 21,000, although North Korean defectors say divorce and remarriage rates there are gradually increasing.

About 830,000 or more than one-third are party members — a very high ratio considering that the total number of party members across North Korea is about 2 million.

The remaining 1.28 million seem to be either prospective members or family of members. They are said to be working mainly in party-affiliated organizations.

A defector from Pyongyang told the Weekly Chosun, “It’s hard for non-party members to live in Pyongyang. Many people are in the process of becoming party members, even if they haven’t been admitted yet. They consider it an honor. So really most people in Pyongyang are in the party.”

According to the data, there are 124 registered foreign nationals in Pyongyang from 15 countries including the U.S., Japan, China, the former Soviet Union or Russia, the Czech Republic, Canada, France, and Lebanon. Japanese citizens top the list with 86, but they are likely to be ethnic Koreans. About one person from every European country lives in Pyongyang.

Read the full story here:
Official Data Shed New Light on Pyongyang Population
Choson Ilbo
201-1-23

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2011 DPRK emigration statistics

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

UPDATE 4 (2011-10-9): According to Yonhap, only 20 North Korean defectors are working as public servants in South Korea:

Only 20 North Korean defectors work as public servants in South Korea, an opposition lawmaker said Sunday, the latest sign that North Koreans are struggling to join mainstream South Korean society.

The figure represents just a small fraction of the more than 22,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea.

In June, Cho Myung-chul, a former economics professor at the North’s elite Kim Il-sung University, was appointed to lead a government body in charge of educating citizens on unification with North Korea.

Cho is the first North Korean defector to become a senior government official in South Korea.

Nineteen others work in the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, in the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and in Incheon city, as well as in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul, according to Park Joo-sun of the opposition Democratic Party.

Separately, 38 North Korean defectors are temporary workers in the central and local governments under a program aimed at expanding employment of North Korean defectors, Park said, citing the Unification Ministry.

A recent survey showed the unemployment rate of North Korean defectors stood at 9.2 percent, about three times higher than that of other South Koreans.

UPDATE 3 (2011-9-23): Yonhap reports that DPRK student defectors increase 3.5-fold since 2006:

A total of 1,681 elementary, middle and high school students fleeing from the communist country reside here in 2011, up 235.9 percent from 475 in 2006, according to the report by the education ministry and submitted to parliament for a regular audit.

Elementary school students accounted for 60.7 percent of the defector students below college level, followed by high school students with 22.2 percent and middle school students with 17.1 percent, the report showed.

The total number of North Koreans defecting to the South surpassed the 20,000 mark in November last year for the first time, almost double from around 10,200 in 2006, according to the Unification Ministry data.

Meanwhile, the dropout rate of North Korean defectors in schools here has gradually decreased over the past few years, from 10.8 percent in 2007 to 6.1 percent in 2008 to 4.7 percent in 2010, according to the report, a sign that efforts to help support young North Korean defectors paid off.

Reasons for their withdrawal from the regular schooling include adjustment failure, responsibilities for housework and taking a school qualification exam instead of completing high school for entering college, the report showed.

UPDATE 2 (2011-9-19): Yonhap reports that 378 N. Korean defectors under protection of S. Korea’s overseas missions.  According to the report:

“As of the end of July, a total of 378 North Korean defectors are under the protection of overseas missions and the ministry is working with relevant nations and international organizations to swiftly transfer them to South Korea,” the ministry said in a report to the National Assembly.

The number of defectors arriving in South Korea via its diplomatic missions totaled 2,423 last year, 2,927 in 2009, 2,089 in 2008, 2,544 in 2007 and 2,018 in 2006, according to the report.

From January to August this year, 1,797 defectors arrived in the South via the diplomatic missions, it said.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-4): According to Yonhap:

The number of North Korean defectors to South Korea has exceeded 1,400 [1,428] in the first six months of the year, up 14 percent compared to the same period last year, a government official here said Monday.

The Choson Ilbo also reports on the emigration numbers:

The Unification Ministry on Monday said 52 percent of the 1,428 North Koreans who came to South Korea in the first half of this year took a year or less to complete the journey, significantly more than the 30 percent in 2009 and 39 percent in 2010.

After a sudden 19-percent drop last year, the number of North Koreans who come to the South is growing again. It steadily increased until 2009 to hit 2,927. But amid growing unrest, the regime cracked down on defectors and it seems asked China to help. But the Chinese crackdowns simply hastened defectors’ move to South Korea, so the figure skyrocketed again this year and is likely to exceed 3,000 by the end of this year, according to the ministry official.

Meanwhile, 47 percent of the new arrivals in the first half of this year had family members already living in the South, up from 36.4 percent from last year. Those who were accompanied by their families also took up a bigger share with 49 percent, up 10 percent from last year. The official said the reason is that many whole families are escaping as they see no hope in the isolated country and plan to go to South Korea from the start. “It’s not just because of economic hardship,” he added.

There are a total of 21,788 North Korean defectors in the South, of whom 75 percent are between the age of 20 and 49, and 72 percent women.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-13): According to KBS:

The number of North Korean defectors who entered South Korea this year numbered around eleven-hundred at the end of May.

This is up 14 percent from the same time last year.

A Unification Ministry official on Monday told reporters that the rise is considered unusual given the North has tightened border security.

Read the full story here:
Seoul says flow of N. Korean defectors likely to continue
Yonhap
2011-7-14

No. of NK Defectors who Enter S.Korea Rises 14%
KBS
2011-6-13

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Cambodia and DPRK emigration

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Sebastian Strangio points out a few interesting facts in the Asia Times about DPRK defection through Cambodia:

1. The Cambodian government has quietly worked to facilitate the processing of North Koreans as they move onto South Korea.

According to the US cables, the processing of North Korean arrivals is done in a quiet, ad hoc manner. In an October 2006 dispatch (06PHNOMPENH1927), Om Yentieng, one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s advisors, was quoted as saying that the processing of North Koreans in Cambodia was “the result of an understanding reached between the prime minister and the South Korean ambassador to Cambodia”.

Secrecy was clearly a priority for the South Koreans. In a July 2007 cable (07PHNOMPENH925) documenting a meeting between South Korean and US officials to discuss the fate of five North Korean refugees in Cambodia who were seeking resettlement in the US, the South Koreans were “preoccupied with conveying their desire that the ROK [Republic of Korea – South Korea] pipeline for North Korean refugees not be publicly revealed”. They also demanded it remain separate from Washington’s own North Korean “refugee processing pipeline”.

A dispatch from April 2008 (08PHNOMPENH316) expressed gratitude to Cambodian officials for “expeditiously processing” the exit permits of two North Korean individuals who departed for the US on April 16. American officials were also “impressed” at Cambodian immigration officials’ “discreet handling” of the cases of another group of North Koreans who departed the previous November.

“During the quiet November departure, no one at the airport noticed the North Koreans’ comings and goings,” it stated. (According to figures released by the Office of Immigration Statistics at the Department of Homeland Security in May, the US resettled more than 100 North Korean refugees between 2006 and 2010 under legislation to help improve human rights conditions in the reclusive country.)

2. Cambodia is no longer a major hub in the underground railraod.  Thailand is now the prefered destination.

It appears, however, that Cambodia has since declined in importance as a conduit for North Korean defectors in favor of a route through Laos into northern Thailand. Pastor Chun Ki-won, head of the Seoul-based refugee aid group Durihana said that Cambodia – along with Mongolia – was one of the few Asian countries willing to aid North Koreans at the start of the 2000s when refugee flows were still relatively low.

Durihana has helped around 900 North Korean defectors reach South Korea over the years. Chun’s first aid mission, which he undertook in July 2001, involved the smuggling of a North Korean woman and her child from northeast China to Phnom Penh via Vietnam. Cambodia increased in importance after December 2001, Chun said, when he was arrested in a Chinese crackdown trying to smuggle a group of refugees across the Mongolian border.

Chun said that due to increased vigilance by Vietnamese authorities, most North Korean refugees now arrive in Southeast Asia via Laos and Thailand. The claim is mirrored in figures from the Thai Immigration Bureau which reveal a 50-fold increase in North Korean arrivals from Laos, from 46 in 2004 – around the time arrivals in Cambodia seem to have begun their decline – to 2,482 in 2010. 870 North Korean refugee arrivals have already been recorded between January and April of this year.

In a 2006 cable from the US consulate in Chiang Mai (06CHIANGMAI79), one official predicted that the increase in North Korean refugee arrivals – then still fairly contained – “may yet be the tip of the iceberg”. “[E]vidence suggests that the stream of refugees is unlikely to decrease, with a network of Christian missionary organizations in Thailand and southern China cooperating to bring in more refugees through Yunnan province, Burma [Myanmar], and Laos and into Thailand’s Chiang Rai province,” the cable stated.

Read the full story here:
All aboard North Korea’s refugee railroad
Asia Times
Sebastian Strangio
2011-8-3

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