Statistics released by the Ministry of Unification today
have revealed a total of 360 North Korean defectors entered South Korea during the
first quarter of 2014; 153 in January, 111 in February and 96 in March.
While the figure is a slight increase from previous years, it
would be premature to assume a rise in defector numbers across the board, a
ministry official said.
Yearly defector intakes first exceeded over 2000 people in
2006, and continued to hover around the 2000-3000 mark until Kim Jong Eun came
to power in 2012. Only 1502 defectors
entered South Korea that year, followed by 1514 people in 2013.
It is believed strengthened border security and harsher punishment
is to blame for the decline. Some also point to marginal improvements in the
economy, resulting in fewer North Koreans willing to risk their lives to secure
a livelihood outside of the country.