19:23 GMT18 June 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it planned to push back the deadline for North Korean defectors to claim housing and other types of benefits to three years. The cabinet approved the law change on Tuesday, the Yonhap news agency said. It still needs to be endorsed by the parliament.

    North Korean defectors are currently required to tell authorities within a year after their arrival if they want to settle down in the country in order to receive full support.

    Some 30,000 defectors from North Korea are living in the South. The outlet said 206 people have been unable to claim full benefits as of September after missing the one-year deadline.

    The number of defectors has been steadily declining since 2012, soon after Kim came to power following his father's death, the Yonhap news agency reported last month.

    According to the spokesman for the ruling South Korean Democratic Party who has cited data of the country's Unification Ministry, while over 2,700 North Korean citizens have fled the country in 2011, just over 1,500 people reached South Korea from the north in 2012. In 2017, the number stood at 1,127, and only 703 people have defected from North Korea in 2018 as of August.

    READ MORE: North Korean Soldier Defects by Walking Across Fortified DMZ

    The Yonhap news agency suggested that North Koreans might be discouraged from defecting from their country because of stricter border control on the North Korean-Chinese border and rising costs of hiring brokers.

    Many North Koreans have been reportedly using China as a transit point on their way to South Korea.


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    benefits, settlement, extension, deadline, support, defectors, South Korea, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
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