Thousands Flee N. Korea Via Covert Network

Brokers charge $2K to $10K to reach Seoul through China
By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User
Posted Nov 18, 2007 5:24 PM CST
A North Korean passenger boat sail past the Yalu River at the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite side of the Chinese border city of Dandong, China in this Aug. 18, 2007 photo. North Korea has embarked...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Thousands are fleeing Kim Jong Il's regime, thanks to an expanding network of brokers who smuggle defectors to Seoul through China, the Washington Post reports. Savvy Seoul brokers charge them up to $10,000 for a luxury "planned escape," complete with fake documents, but stakes are rising as Beijing and Pyonyang tighten border control. Citizens caught trying to flee face prison time—officials who aid them, execution.

Poor escapees reportedly pay $2,000 in bribes, only to have brokers double their fee after settlement in Seoul. Pyonyang defectors also suffer the guilt of knowing that their flight has forced family members into labor camps back home. "You cannot know how heartbreaking it is to leave your family in this way," one said.