SEOUL, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- In a sign that more North Koreans are taking risks to leave their country despite an ongoing crackdown under Kim Jong Un, South Korea's population of North Korean defectors passed the 30,000 mark for the first time in history.
The rate at which North Koreans are leaving their homeland was up 18 percent from the same time in 2015, Yonhap reported.
When seven defectors gained entry to South Korea on Friday, the number of refugees rose to 30,005, according to Seoul's unification ministry.
From January to October 2016, the total number of North Koreans who gained entry was 1,155, Seoul said on Sunday.
North Koreans began defecting to the South for the first time in June 1962.
In February 2007 the number of refugees surpassed 10,000 and in November 2010 the population grew to 20,000.
It has taken six years for the group to pass the 30,000 mark.
The number of defectors did not begin to escalate until 2005, when a large number of North Koreans, 1,382 in total, gained entry.
In 2009, the annual number of new entrants was 2,914 but that number has been in decline, according to Yonhap.
In 2011, 2,706 North Koreans arrived in the South, followed by 1,502 in 2012, 1,514, in 2013, 1,397 in 2014, and 1,275 in 2015.
The decrease owes in part to Kim's strengthening of a "politics of fear" and sanctions against the country, according to the press report.
More than 80 percent of defectors in 2016 were women.