February 21, 2024

North-South Migration, part 3: People in their thousands, 1991-2010

Sudden changes in the North, China in the '90s made more defections possible

The division of Korea also brought about the phenomenon of illegal migration from the North to the South (as well as in the opposite direction). The nature of this migration has changed throughout the 70 years of division, and it seems that in the past 2-3 years we have witnessed another change. This four-part mini series deals with the four distinct periods in the history of this migration: 1945-1953, 1953-1990, 1991-2010 and 2011-present.

South Korea is now a home to some 25,000 defectors from the North (this figure includes only those who left the North after the end of the Korean War). However, few people realize that the vast majority of this group are very recent arrivals. There were only 607 defectors in 1990, and their numbers doubled to slightly more than 1,000 by the start of the millennium.