At a safe house at a secret location in Northern China we caught up with four refugees, a mother and her two girls, aged 14 and 12, and their neighbor, a woman in her forties. They had arrived in China a few days earlier.
The children's father disappeared several years ago and is believed to have been executed but what drove their mother to risk everything on this trip were the worsening conditions facing her daughters.
"Sometimes the girls are actually starving," she told us. "Sometimes they are lucky to have a little food for the day - but that is no guarantee there will be food for tomorrow."
The girls sit quietly beside her. They look no older than eight and 10, stunted by malnutrition.
On their journey they will be shepherded by South Korean activists who will help them get across China. They will teach them how to blend in with the local Chinese and buy them a new wardrobe to make them less noticeable.
The risks are great and the refugees were under no illusions about their fate if they were caught by the Chinese. "If you are arrested the Chinese will certainly send you back to North Korea," the other woman told us.
"There would be a prison van waiting for you and then almost certain death." continued