A nuclear scientist from North Korea recently committed suicide as he was deported from China back to North Korea, where he faced the severe punishment that awaits all defectors — to include the three-generation punishment system that not only involves him, but any spouses, children, siblings and parents too. Hyun Cheol Huh is one of many recent significant defectors of late, to include the soldier that was recently found with anthrax antibodies in his blood. Many of these defections have gone under the cover of darkness, and many have happened right across the DMZ under fire — many are unsuccessful.
Defection from North Korea is nothing new and has been happening since the Korean War, many of which naturally head down to South Korea. Not only does South Korea allow defectors to head their way, they invite them with open arms. They are met with an initial aid package and then given an allowance, the size of which depends on the person. While the government has historically sought to ease the process of defection, more recently they have made efforts to slow the amounts of incoming refugees, as many of them have criminal records or are from China looking to take advantage of the defector benefits.
Still, rest assured that anyone with political or military clout or knowledge is going to be received well in South Korea. Not only does the southern nation stand to gain a lot from an intelligence perspective, but they also recognize all Koreans — be they northerners or southerners — as legitimate Korean citizens.
However, South Korea is definitely not the only option for North Korean defectors. Many, like nuclear scientist Hyun Cheol Huh, make a run for the neighboring country of China. China does not consider them legitimate refugees; they treat them as illegal immigrants subject to deportation. They have a long and bumpy history mired with sex trafficking, hard labor and other exploitation of these refugees.