Tim Peters takes it for granted that North Korea and China will be hostile to his efforts. Far more galling to him is the attitude of the U.S. and South Korea. President Roh Moo Hyun's government in Seoul pursues, in Peters' words, a policy of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" in its pursuit of engagement with the North.
The Seoul government, Peters says, does not want to do anything to upset North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, lest it reduce the chances for peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. "
Any systematic effort to bring North Koreans to freedom might turn what now amounts to a trickle of refugees into a destabilizing flood—and Roh wants no part of it, nor do most South Koreans," says a Western diplomat in Seoul.
Last year, the South Korean government slashed in half the cash portion of the subsidy it used to pay refugees who make it to the South from 6 million won ($6,320) to 3 million ($3,160). The defectors often used the money they were given to help finance efforts to get their relatives out—typically by paying middlemen who are in the people-smuggling business for profit.
[Excerpted from TIME magazine “Long Walk to Freedom”]