THE South Korean government will pay defectors from the restrictive North Korea up to 1 billion won (US$860,000) for classified government information.
According to Yonhap news agency, the amount is a four-fold increase from the maximum 250 million won (US$216, 000) currently offered, in a move to entice more defectors. This also marks Seoul’s first increase of the reward in 20 years for defectors who have high-grade information that is of use to the South.
The south will also increase the rewards for equipment brought over by defectors.
For example, individuals who come over to the south on a military vessel or plane will be given 1 billion won instead of the previous 150 million won (US$130, 000). Those who defect in tanks, armoured vehicles and guided weapons are now eligible for a 300 million won (US260,000) reward, an increase of 50 million won (US$43,000).
“The increase reflects the rise in consumer prices since 1997 when the last reward money adjustment was made,” a ministry insider told Yonhap.
“One of the biggest reasons why North Koreans are hesitant about defecting is because they are fearful of making a living after they come to South Korea,” he explained. “The planned changes can alleviate such worries to a certain extent.”
Individuals who seek to defect from North Korea do so by crossing the border with China at the risk of being caught and repatriated by Chinese authorities. Upon their return to the north, they will face a prison sentence.
This comes amid marked a rise in tension between Seoul and Pyongyang.
As Bloomberg Politics points out, South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced relations between the two Koreas have fallen to their worst point in decades. Talks between the two to be taken off the table until Kim Jong Un’s regime gives up its nuclear weapons.
“It’s been over 20 years since North Korea’s nuclear threats started, and tensions are at their worst,” the website quoted Minister Hong Yong-pyo as saying.
“For the time being, the South Korean government’s stance is that the North should show a will to denuclearize,” he added. “That means any dialogue should be based upon denuclearization.”
South Korea and the U.S. both want Kim Jong Un to commit to abandoning his nuclear program before heading back to the negotiating table after talks collapsed in 2009.