A few months after fleeing her destitute homeland for a more decent life in South Korea, North Korean defector Park received a tempting offer: Someone who could transfer money to her family in the North for a commission fee.
Haunted by memories of her three starving children and old mother living in Hyesan in the country’s far north Ryanggang Province, the 44-year-old defector eagerly handed over 20 million won ($17,900) to a broker — only to find out a month later not a single penny had reached her family.
“It is just outrageous to think that other defectors like me could easily fall prey to this kind of fraud, getting their savings wiped out,” says Park.
According to a 2016 survey from the Seoul-based Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, around 58.5 percent of 400 surveyed defectors in South Korea have sent money home. Twenty-six percent said they did so last year, with the average remittance being about 2.35 million won ($2,100).
With a growing number of new arrivals falling prey to such scams, the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs and defector support, has expanded related education and set up a 24-hour hotline manned by officials at the Hanawon resettlement center. Most defectors are mandated to undertake a three-month training period there as soon as they admitted to South Korea.
Most defectors are not high-income earners, with their average monthly wages hovering around 1.5 million won ($1342/month).
[The Korea Herald]