Seoul: in 2005 1,400 N. Koreans Fled to South

Bringing the total number of refugees since the end of the war to nearly 8 thousand. 

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Nearly 1,400 North Koreans defected to the South last year alone, bringing the total number of defectors from the communist country to 8,000 since the end of the Korean War.

Seoul's Unification Ministry says 1,387 North Korean defectors came to the South in 2005, down from 1,894 the year before. But ministry officials say the number of defectors has risen sharply in previous years, going from 583 in 2001 to more than 1,000 the next year.

Seoul-based group called the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees said last year that North Korea had executed 70 defectors who were captured in China and sent home, to discourage its citizens from fleeing the country. Nearly 1,900 North Koreans defected to South Korea last year, an increase of almost 50 per cent from 2003. The Commission to Help North Korean Refugees estimates that more than 300,000 North Koreans are hiding in China, even if Beijing's policy is repatriation.

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