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Report: S. Korea to Boost Reward for N. Korean Defectors With Classified Info

FILE - People watch a TV news program showing a file image of Thae Yong Ho, a high-profile North Korean defector, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 17, 2016

South Korean lawmakers are preparing to consider legislation awarding nearly $900,000 (1 billion won) to North Korean defectors with classified information about the reclusive Pyongyang government.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported on the legislation Sunday, saying the amount was a fourfold increase over what was currently being paid to defectors with senstive information.

The report said the legislation was aimed at persuading more North Korean elites to switch sides. The Ministry of Unification said the bill would also increase rewards for equipment — including vessels and other military hardware — brought by defectors.

There was no immediate response to the report from the North Korean government.

Yonhap quoted a ministry source as saying the reward hike from the $217,000 currently offered by the Seoul government "reflects the rise in consumer prices since 1997," the last time the reward bounty was adjusted.

"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 insider said.

The report also quoted an unnamed North Korean defector as saying the increased reward would most likely encourage influential North Koreans to consider "betraying" their homeland, which Yonhap noted has become a "rogue state" in the eyes of the international community.