Barbed wire along the Yalu river which marks the border between China and North Korea. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Barbed wire along the Yalu River, which marks the border between China and North Korea. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

The number of North Koreans who escaped to South Korea in the first half of this year dropped by 13 per cent compared to the same period last year, a government report shows.

The report from South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said 780 North Koreans escaped between January and July 2017, as reported by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. Most of them were workers and farmers (56.9%) thought to be fleeing poverty, while 3.5 per cent were soldiers or government agents. As World Watch Monitor has reported, others flee because of hardship and persecution or because they’ve discovered that they are constantly lied to by the national media.

The decrease is attributed to tighter surveillance by North Korea over its people, and reinforced security along the China-North Korea border, as most North Koreans first escape to China, before moving on to South Korea or other countries like Thailand. (China has the longest border with North Korea, while those who wish to escape directly to South Korea have to cross a heavily protected demilitarised zone between the two countries.)

The BBC reports that more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to have defected since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which ended with a truce, not a formal peace treaty.

North Korea heads the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.