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S. Korea quadruples reward for information from North defectors to $860,000

By Allen Cone
S. Korea quadruples reward for information from North defectors to $860,000
A line of Chinese trucks return from North Korea to the Chinese border city of Dandong, Liaoning Province, via a bridge linking the two nations after unloading freight there on August 14, 2016. North Korean defectors often cross into China en route to South Korea. File photo by Yonhap News Service/UPI

March 5 (UPI) -- South Korea plans to quadruple the amount it pays for classified information from North Korean defectors to $860,000.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Unification announced the new reward, the first increase in 20 years.

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The National Assembly will consider the bill, a Unification Assembly official said.

The bill offers the financial rewards for defectors of intelligence and knowledge to enhance its security, the ministry said.

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The nation also quadrupled the reward to soldiers who defect with weapons. Fees include $860,000 for those who flee with a warship or military fighter jet. A tank or a machine gun will earn rewards ranging from $43,000 to $260,000.

"The increase reflects the rise in consumer prices since 1997 when the last reward money adjustment was made," a ministry source told Yonhap News Agency.

"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. The planned changes can alleviate such worries to a certain extent."

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The South Korean government helps resettle defectors with job training, rent and other subsidies.

Most defectors flee from North Korea through the country's China border, even though North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has tightened security along the boundary. The number of defectors reached 2,914 in 2009 but dropped to 1,418 last year, The New York Times reported.

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Once in China, defectors stay in the country to raise cash to pay smugglers to take them to countries with a South Korean Embassy, including Laos and Thailand.

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Last summer, Thae Yong-ho, the No. 2 diplomat at the North Korean Embassy in London, arrived in the South with his family.

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