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N. Korea tightens border controls to stop defections

All Headlines 10:44 July 01, 2011

SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has strengthened its border controls to try to stem the steady stream of defections to South Korea, a private aid group claimed Friday.

The latest crackdown came after nine North Koreans crossed the tense western sea border into South Korea aboard two engineless boats in June, the Good Friends said in its regular newsletter.

The North bans small motorless boats on its western coast and thoroughly vets people before issuing permits to go to sea. It also stopped issuing a travel permit that made it nearly impossible for inlanders to travel to border areas - crossing points for defectors, the aid group said.

However, the flow of North Korean defectors continues amid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression, prompting Seoul to build a new facility to accommodate North Koreans. South Korea is now home to more than 21,000 North Korean defectors.

South Korea is scheduled to break ground for the resettlement center in Hwacheon next week to help the defectors better adjust to life in the capitalist South. The area is about 118 kilometers northeast of Seoul.

Defections are a constant irritant to inter-Korean relations, which have already worsened since the North's two deadly attacks on the South last year that killed 50 South Koreans.

South Korea has suggested that it will not return the nine North Korean defectors to the North despite Pyongyang warning of further damage to inter-Korean relations.

Seoul has a longstanding policy to accept any North Korean defectors who want to live in the South, and repatriate any North Koreans who stray into the South if they want to return.

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