Seoul, Jul 16 (EFE).- A record low of two North Korean defectors entered South Korea in the second quarter of this year, the South’s unification ministry reported Friday.
Thirty-one defectors arrived in the South in the first quarter of the year, and 12 over the same April-June period in 2020, a figure that until now had been the quarterly all-time low.
The pandemic has prompted North Korean authorities to tighten security on its borders with China and Russia to prevent the entry of Covid-19 into the country, increasing barbed wire barricades and guard posts.
Last year the regime ordered border soldiers to shoot anyone who approached the divide from either side, seeking to prevent cross-border smuggling.
This meant that 2020 saw the fewest North Koreans arrive in South Korea (227) since record-keeping began in 2003, but 2021 is now on track to beat it.
As it is virtually impossible to cross the militarized border between the two Koreas, most North Korean defectors cross the Amnok or Tuman rivers to reach China.
Although the majority of deserters settle in China (the exact number is unknown, but NGOs estimate tens or hundreds of thousands), some try to reach the South through a third country such as Thailand or Mongolia, where they then request asylum at South Korean embassies and consulates – something they can’t do in China.
China, which wants to avoid an influx of North Koreans, does not consider them as refugees but as economic migrants, so if it finds them in its territory, it forcibly repatriates them home, where possible torture and imprisonment await them, according to humanitarian groups. EFE