Moving south

Of the 27,000 defectors in South Korea, over 20,000 come from North Hamgyong and Ryanggang, two neighbouring provinces in the northeast of the country.

Most defectors resettled in Seoul city or the surrounding Gyeonggi province in the South.

Gender split

The sex balance of defectors has shifted overtime. In 2001, just 46% of defectors were women. That figure is now 83%, as of March 2015.

The annual number of defections has risen steadily from the late 1990s and peaked in 2009, when 2,914 North Koreans arrived in the South - the greatest influx since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.


Almost half of all defectors were unemployed or were state-assigned workers before leaving North Korea. Only a handful of defectors were professionals, or had full time jobs within the North Korean military, government.


Seoul supports North Korean defectors with resettlement money and employment training at special centres in South Korea, which has contributed to growing economic independence amongst defectors over the years.


The number of North Korean defectors relying on South Korean subsidies to survive has dwindled over the years, as has the dropout rate in education schemes, under which defectors are offered places at South Korean schools and universities.