Seoul to up reward to North Korean defectors with intel: Report

A man walks past a military barbed wire fence at the Imjingak peace park in the border city of Paju near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on Jan 1, 2017.
A man walks past a military barbed wire fence at the Imjingak peace park in the border city of Paju near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on Jan 1, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea will award up to one billion won (US$860,000) to defectors from the North with classified information about the reclusive state, reports said Sunday (March 5).  

The government currently offers up to $217,000 to defectors from the North with sensitive information but this would be the first increase in reward money in two decades.  

The rewards would go to “people who provide intelligence and knowledge that can enhance South Korea’s security,” Yonhap news agency reported.  The sums paid would be determined on the basis of the importance of the intelligence, Yonhap said.  

The cash incentive is aimed at encouraging more members of the North’s elite to flee to the South, it added.  

“One of the biggest reasons why North Koreans are hesitant about defecting is because they are fearful of (how they will make a living) after they come to South Korea,” Yonhap cited a ministry official as saying.  

High profile defectors have served as a vital source of intelligence about the reclusive Pyongyang government over the years.  

In August 2016, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain Thae Yong Ho became one of the highest-ranking defectors.  He has vowed to raise awareness about the “gruesome realities” of his country.