Updated Dec.20,2004 19:12 KST

Seoul Mulls Directives to Stymie 'Political' Defections
It was confirmed Monday that the government is devising plans to plug the drain of defectors fleeing the famine-riddled North, including placing a travel ban on so-called "defection brokers" who are paid to help the asylum-seekers complete their passage to South Korea.

The Unification Ministry said in material on North Korea policy that was distributed to participants in a unification advisory council meeting Monday morning that the government was devising measures to remove vital links in the chain facilitating planned defections.

The ministry delved into specifics by mentioning plans to strengthen entry screenings for defectors who reside overseas, reducing re-settlement funds for defectors and cracking down on "defection brokers," including slapping travel bans on them.

The government has been saying that it opposed planned defections and had absolutely no intention of undermining the North Korean system by encouraging them, but this is the first time it has revealed concrete measures aimed at blocking them.

Commenting on this, a government official said there had been no changes in the government's principle of accepting defectors, but premeditated defections carried out with political objectives rather than because of human rights abuses were on the rise, and there was also concern that such defections would cause diplomatic friction.

The Unification Ministry, concerned that its crackdown would cause controversy, initially distributed materials with the proposed regulations, then later recalled them and redistributed edited versions in which the section on planned defections had been deleted.

(Gwon Gyeong-bok, kkb@chosun.com )