In North Korea there is no freedom, as we do understand in western culture. There are rather duties which should be realized by North Koreans. Back in history North Korea has long been a kind of paradise for its citizens. The country was even richer than South Korea in the late 60’s. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union (which massively supported financially North Korea), hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have landed in China and foreign countries. Some of them migrated to South Korea (about 23 thous. of North Koreans refugees are living in South Korea and more than 200 thous. in China. Those are however considered by Chinese authorities as illegal immigrants).
Why North Koreans want to leave their country? Until the 90’s people fled because they had nothing to eat. Now it seems that people are fleeding because they want to improve their life. These refugees want to get a better job and send some money to their families which stayed in North Korea. Some people also think that North Koreans leave their country because human rights are violated.
Moreover it’s said that defectors are punished when they are repatriated from China. In reality it seems that officials are taking bribes and these defectors can go back to China. Various reports were prepared regarding this wave of immigrants. These reports describe the role played by traffickers and corrupt officials. I personally do believe that the South Korean government should tackle the issue in North Korea, rather than after the North Koreans migrants ended up in a miserable flat in the suburds of Seoul (especially in the disctrict of Goyang, a part of Seoul).
Smuggling is a big business for intermediaries in the border between China and North Korea. They take between 200 and 5000 euro for a trip to South Korea. The most expensive way is a kind of guarantee for a one-way ticket (one or two weeks) to South Korea. North Korean authorities are trying to stamp out large-scale people-smuggling however some well-informed North Korean sources say that the North Korean state is also involved in this business (in order to receive foreign currencies).
Other countries than South Korea are welcoming North Korean defectors. Many of them are now living in Europe (in the United Kingdom) and in Canada. There are even some cases of defectors based in Central Europe. They are even more happy in Europe and Canada than in South Korea but that’s another story.