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More than 80 percent of North Korean defectors are women, says report

Women in North Korea are not subject to the same strict surveillance as North Korean men, and are allowed more freedom of movement.

By Elizabeth Shim
More than 80 percent of North Korean defectors are women, says report
North Korean women dressed in traditional dresses, leave the restaurant they work at and head to the North Korean embassy in Beijing, on December 17, 2006. Women participate in North Korea’s unofficial economy in at higher rates and the country’s gray markets have continued to proliferate. UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

SEOUL, July 6 (UPI) -- North Korean defectors are overwhelmingly women, according to a South Korean government report released Sunday.

The preliminary data from Seoul's Unification Ministry indicated of the 535 North Koreans who sought asylum in South Korea in 2015, 444 were women, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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Women in North Korea are not subject to the same strict surveillance in place for North Korean men, according to South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh.

The North Korean state employs men in higher numbers, and a prolonged absence from the workplace is likely to raise a red flag.

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While Pyongyang maintains a system that discourages men from fleeing the country, North Korean women who are registered as "housewives" in the country are allowed more freedom.

Women participate in North Korea's unofficial economy at higher rates and the country's gray markets have continued to proliferate as the state looks the other way.

In the absence of scrutiny, North Korean women also cross the China-North Korea border in larger numbers -- an option not available to North Korean men, according to South Korean press.

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Once in China, North Korean women sometimes work as household help to earn money that could be then used to hire a broker who could help them make their way to a third country.

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The ratio of women defectors to men has been higher since 2002, reaching 70 percent in 2006.

In 2014, North Korean women composed 78 percent of the newly arrived defector population in South Korea.

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The number of defectors has fallen steadily since 2011, a year before Kim Jong Un fully assumed power in 2012.

Stricter border controls since Kim took the leadership position were cited as a reason for the reduction in defections.

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