The number of defectors entering South Korea increased 15% year-on-year between 2010 and 2011, reaching a total of 2,737 people last year, according to recently published Ministry of Unification statistics.
The highest number of defectors entering the country was recorded in 2009, when 2,927 defectors made their way into South Korea, but there was a sharp drop-off in 2010.
The annual number of defectors first broke through the 1,000 person barrier in 2001, before exceeding 2,000 for the first time in 2006. The total number of defectors living in South Korea stood at 23,100 in December last year.
The percentage of women defectors passed through the 70% barrier for the first time in 2006, a trend which has perpetuated. At its peak, the percentage of women reached 78% in 2007 and 2008 before dropping back to 69% last year. 15,929 of those now residing in South Korea are female, compared to 7,171 males.
It is asserted that the reason why the percentage of women is so high is because women, the main breadwinners in North Korea society, often decide to go to China to earn money with the intention of returning, but many later make the decision to defect instead.
As of last June, the demographic breakdown of the approximately 23,000 defectors by age was 32% in their thirties, 27% in their twenties, 15% in their forties and 12% teenagers.
A large majority (70%) had only finished middle or high school, while 9% had been to vocational colleges and 8% had graduated from university.
Half of all defectors were unemployed before coming to South Korea, while 38% were laborers, 4% volunteers and 3% from the military. 29% now reside in Seoul, while other areas with substantial populations are neighboring Gyeonggi Province with 27% and nearby Incheon with 9%.