Every year, poverty-stricken North Koreans risk their lives crossing the border into China to escape the repression and starvation plaguing their hermit homeland.
The price of failure is steep. Getting caught in the North can mean execution or forced labor in one of the nation's notorious gulags. A similar fate awaits those who make it across the Tumen and Yalu rivers into China. If discovered by authorities there, escapees are handed over to North Korea.
But while the plight of defectors has been reported in the media, public interest seems strangely subdued in neighboring South Korea.
"I've realized that people, especially us South Koreans, tend to avoid confronting the issue of North Korean defectors," "Crossing" filmmaker Kim Tae Kyun said during a recent interview in Tokyo. "The sheer magnitude of the problem forces our eyes away from it," he said.