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(LEAD) Number of N.K. defectors up 16.7 pct on-year in first 11 months

All Headlines 17:21 December 07, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 6-8)

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- The number of North Korean defectors coming to South Korea rose 16.7 percent on-year in the first 11 months of the year, data showed Wednesday, as more elites and overseas workers chose to flee their home country.

A total of 1,268 North Koreans came to South Korea in the January-November period, compared with 1,086 the previous year, according to the Ministry of Unification.

As of end-November, the total number of North Korean defectors reached 30,062, it showed. The ministry said that the number of North Koreans coming to the South would reach around 1,400 this year, if it grows at the current pace.

The number of defectors reaching the South peaked at 2,914 in 2009, but the pace of growth has slowed down since 2011 as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has strengthened border control and surveillance over the country's population.

But this year, the pace has picked up, helped by a rise in defections by North Korean elites and workers toiling overseas, the ministry said.

North Korea is pressing its diplomats and overseas workers to send hard currency earnings home as it is squeezed by tough sanctions handed down by the U.N. Security Council.

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said that the imposition of international sanctions has promoted more North Korean elites to escape the regime.

"North Korea is showing a sensitive response to the U.N. sanctions and is being stifled (under the sanctions regime)," Hong said at a forum earlier in the day.

Last month, the government unveiled a set of measures to help North Korean defectors better adapt to the South as their total number here surpassed the 30,000 mark.

The government's measures center on creating jobs for defectors in central and provincial governments, and public firms, and strengthening the welfare system, such as increasing resettlement funds.

(LEAD) Number of N.K. defectors up 16.7 pct on-year in first 11 months - 1

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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