February 25, 2024

Behind the decline in North Korean defections

Kim Jong Un’s regime has applied smarter, not stricter, policies to bring down escapees

Recently published statistics for the year 2014 confirm what was widely expected: The number of North Korean refugees arriving in South Korea remains low compared to the late ’00s. In the last year, 1,396 North Koreans arrived, while the numbers for 2012 and 2013 were 1,508 and 1,514, respectively.

These figures are low if compared to earlier levels: Between 2008 and 2013, the number of refugees arriving annually oscillated between 2,400 and 2,900. The drop has been pronounced and sudden. Nonetheless, a new and seemingly stable equilibrium has emerged. Unless something dramatic happens in the North, this new reality seems set to continue. Most likely, the annual number of new arrivals will oscillate around the 1,500 mark.