February 22, 2024

Why increasing numbers of senior officials are fleeing North Korea

Purge fears, reduced political enthusiasm and concern over national prospects all key factors

This year can be described as the “year of defections" in North Korea. This is not to say, however, that the overall number of defections from the country have increased significantly this year. As a matter of fact, the figures are still well below the maximum level reached around 2009/2010.

Yet not since at least the late 1950s has the world seen such a high number of senior North Korean officials and diplomats choosing to defect. The most recent incident of this kind is the defection of the North Korean minister in London, confirmed last week by Seoul. But as far as we know, there have actually been quite a few other such high-level defections this year.