Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Defectors’ remittances to North Korea down 18%



Defectors’ remittances to North Korea down 18%

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The decline in remittances could aggravate North Korean people’s suffering during the pandemic, given that 88.2 per cent of defectors said transferred funds were used for the living expenses of their families and relatives in North Korea. JOINT PRESS CORPS/YONHAP NEWS AGENCY

Defectors’ remittances to North Korea down 18%

Remittances from North Korean defectors to their families living across the inter-Korean border fell by 18.2 per cent while Pyongyang has maintained a border lockdown for two years and strengthened controls over its society, Seoul-based NGOs said in a joint report.

The Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) and North Korea Social Research conducted a mixed in-person, online, and telephone survey of 407 North Korean defectors living in South Korea between November and December this year.

The poll results showed that 20.9 per cent sent money back to their families and relatives in North Korea this year, which was a 5.7 percentage-point decrease from 2020, when Pyongyang started to strengthen lockdown and control measures against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Total remittances reached 245.2 million won ($207,000) this year, but this was down from 300 million won in 2020 and 314 million won in 2019.

This year, North Korean defectors also sent money an average of 1.51 times to their families. The average amount remitted each time was 2.09 million won.

More importantly, the decline in remittances could aggravate North Korean people’s suffering during the Covid-19 pandemic, given that 88.2 per cent of defectors said transferred funds were used for the living expenses of their families and relatives in North Korea.

According to the survey, one of the major reasons for the rapid decline in remittances was that defectors lost contact with their families in North Korea due to Pyongyang’s move to impose a yearslong border lockdown and strengthen control over the society with the justification of preventing Covid-19 infections.

Under the situation, North Korean defectors struggled to find ways to get in touch with their families and relatives and request brokers to send remittances.

Some 32.6 per cent of the respondents chose “other options” when asked why they did not send money back home, and most of them cited the severance of communication channels with their families as the reason.

Another major reason was the defectors’ poor economic situation. Twenty-eight per cent said they could not afford to remit money to North Korea.

But unlike other media reports, the survey outcomes suggested that commission for transferring money through brokers remained similar to the previous years.

Some 88 per cent of respondents said brokers took commissions of between 20 and 40 per cent this year, although commissions differed depending on region, way of transferring money, and the broker.

Reports from media including the Associated Press have suggested brokers have been collecting higher fees since the pandemic began.

Also, some 68.1 per cent believed that their remittances would affect North Korean society.

Among them, 27.8 per cent said North Korean recipients would yearn for South Korean society, 22.9 per cent agreed that money transfers would invigorate the private economy, while 14.3 per cent answered that remittances would contribute to encouraging them to defect to South Korea increasing their families’ awareness.

During the pandemic, the number of North Korean defectors who continued to contact their families fell by almost a third this year. According to the poll, only 13.8 per cent of defector respondents got in touch with families this year.

The defectors mainly asked about their families’ health and safety and confirmed the receipt of remittances. But the figure was a sharp decline in comparison to the 38.6 per cent last year.

Phone calls remained the most frequently used means of communication, accounting for 85.7 per cent. Some 3.6 per cent said they still kept up mail correspondence with their families in North Korea.

Since 2005, the NKDB has conducted the “Social and Economic Integration of North Korean Defectors Survey” annually and provides information on defectors’ remittances, employment, and economic activities.

THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Siem Reap’s Angkor Botanical Garden opens

    The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap. “After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub

  • Hun Sen: Don’t react to hostility

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged tolerance and thanked members of the Cambodian diaspora for not reacting to the hostility on display towards him by others while he was in the US to attend the May 12-13 ASEAN-US Special Summit in Washington, DC. In an audio