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Number of N. Korean defector arrivals jumps 19 pct this year
SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- More than 2,300 North Korean defectors entered South Korea this year after traveling through China and other countries, a government report said Tuesday, showing an increase of about 19 percent from last year.

   Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled their communist country since the 1950-53 Korean War to escape poverty and political oppression there. A total of 22,617 of them have so far settled in the South, according to the foreign ministry report submitted to Rep. Park Joo-sun of the main opposition Democratic Party.

   This year, the number of new arrivals stood at 2,317 as of Nov. 6, marking an increase of 18.8 percent from the same period last year, the report said.

   The number of annual arrivals passed the 1,000 mark for the first time in 2001, and topped 2,000 in 2006. Meanwhile, the total number of North Korean defectors in the years prior to 1989 stood at 607, according to the report.

   The ministry's draft budget for next year includes some 5.29 billion won (US$ 4.62 million) in support measures for North Korean defectors, such as medical and flight expenses and operation costs for shelters.

   Many North Korean defectors are flown here after traveling through China and Southeast Asia, as the two Koreas remain divided by a heavily fortified border.