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Over 1,000 North Koreans defect to South Korea this year

All Headlines 12:02 December 18, 2018

SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- More than 1,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea so far this year, a level similar to the number recorded during the same period of last year, the unification ministry said Tuesday.

The number of North Koreans defecting to the South came to 1,042 during the January-November period, according to the data provided by the ministry. Last year's corresponding figure was 1,045.

"Since Chairman Kim Jong-un took office in 2012, around 1,000-1,500 North Koreans have defected to the South every year," a unification ministry official told reporters.

The official also said that the government has been "flexible" in allowing humanitarian organizations to contact North Korean people and bringing in assistance to the North amid a thaw in inter-Korean relations.

During the January-November period, Seoul has permitted six civic groups to bring medication, powdered milk and flour to the North on a total of 14 separate cases.

He, however, did not provide detailed information on how much and which organizations crossed into the North with the humanitarian assistance.

Last year, South Korea announced a plan to provide US$8 million worth of assistance to North Korea through international humanitarian groups but the plan has yet to be executed.

The government is reportedly putting the plan on hold in consideration of a possible negative message it could send at a time when denuclearization talks with North Korea are underway and international sanctions remain in place, though humanitarian assistance is not restricted under the sanctions.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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