Human rights activists have criticised South Korea for not putting enough pressure on North Korea over its appalling human rights record.
A North Korean defector spoke of 'apologists' in the South
Activists and defectors at a Seoul conference on North Korean human rights violations said the South's policy of engagement with the North had failed.
A UN resolution passed last month accused North Korea of "widespread and grave" abuses of human rights.
They included torture, executions and extensive forced labour, it said.
Under its so-called Sunshine Policy, South Korea has sought to improve economic ties with the North, preferring to engage with its neighbour rather than reprimand it.
But the highest ranking official ever to defect from North Korea, Hwang Jang-yop, told the conference that the South was home to apologists for the North as a result of North Korean propaganda.
"We have people who choose to defend the North and oppose the United States only from hearing what [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il and his group say," he said. "This is a disgrace."
Suzanne Scholte, head of Washington based think-tank the Defense Forum Foundation, said the South Korean government was content with the status quo in the North for fear that the secretive state might collapse.
"The South Korean government has abandoned the North Korean people," she said.
"How many more North Koreans have to die before we stop this failed strategy?"
Some 700 officials are attending the meeting in Seoul, including US ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow, who on Wednesday branded North Korea a "criminal regime" for state sanctioned drug trafficking, money laundering and arms sales.
The conference has been organised by South Korean human rights groups and Freedom House, a pro-democracy organisation partly funded by the US government.