In the second quarter of 2023, the number of defectors reaching South Korea has doubled, reported NK News on 18 July 2023.
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller gives some perspective: “To a certain extent, the increase should not come as a surprise. While the North Korean regime is still very cautious about allowing international contacts because of pandemic health scares, the increase in numbers is more due to a relaxation of the COVID-regulations in China, making it easier for escapees to reach South Korea. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that we are talking about very low numbers overall. In the second quarter of 2023, only 65 people made it to the South (18 men and 47 women), bringing the total number for 2023 to 99 so far. This is a far cry from the levels before the pandemic struck: In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, 1047 escapees reached South Korea.”
Thomas Muller adds: “At the same time, Kim Jong Un seems to feel ever more self-secure at the top. He reportedly approved the first paintings of himself to be shown at a state art exhibition (NK News, 26 July 2023). While statues of himself are yet to come, this collection of official portraits is another clear sign of the growing personality cult around him.”