In recent years North Korea increased the number of guards and security measures at the border to prevent defections, that are viewed as a threat to the Kim government’s tight control over the population.
An estimated 100,000 undocumented North Koreans currently live in China, and many other defectors attempt dangerous journeys through China to reach a third country like Thailand or Mongolia, where they can request asylum in South Korea.
However human rights activists are concerned the progressive government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in is taking a passive approach to supporting defectors and confronting human rights violations on North Korea, in an effort to improve inter-Korean relations and facilitate a nuclear deal with the U.S.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been a more vocal critic of North Korean human rights violations, and some defectors expect he will confront Kim Jong Un on this issue when they meet for their summit, that is expected to take place in late May or early June.
However other advocates have voiced concern that Trump may be using human rights criticisms as a negotiating tacit to reach a better deal to end the North Korean nuclear threat.