How defectors send money to relatives in North Korea

It is sometimes a challenge for North Korean defectors to find trustful middlemen to help them send money to relatives still in North Korea.

Brokers in South Korea wire money to middlemen in China, most of whom are smugglers or tradesmen with ties to North Korea. Then the middlemen call their contacts in the North to notify them of the amount of money to deliver out of the pockets of their North Korean counterparts while carrying out other trade deals of their own. The commission fee is between 20 percent and 30 percent in general.

For the past decade, Kim Hye-sook, a 42-year-old defector from North Korea, has successfully managed to send money to her elder sister and relatives who remain in the North. Kim was lucky enough to find someone in the transfer business who was a friend of a fellow defector. Although the commission fees are relatively high — around 30 percent of the amount entrusted — Kim’s money has always landed safely in the hands of her family.

“Looking at kids here, I cannot help but think of my nephews [in the North]. I wish they could live a decent life as they do here. I myself live on a tight budget with my husband, as I’m sick and can’t work. Nevertheless, I can’t stop sending money back home because I know exactly how they live in North Korea — it breaks my heart now just thinking of it,” Kim said during an interview.

[The Korea Herald]

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