A few months after fleeing her destitute homeland for a more decent life south of the border, Park, received a tempting offer from a fellow defector: She could transfer money to her family in the North for a commission fee.
Haunted by memories of her three starved children and old mother living in Hyesan in the country’s far north, the 44-year-old Park eagerly handed over 20 million won ($17,800) to a broker — only to find out a month later that not a single penny had reached her family.
“It was all of my savings,” said Park, who arrived here several years ago and agreed to speak to The Korea Herald on condition her full name not be published.
“I had spent months to find this guy, but to no avail. It is just outrageous to think that other defectors like me would easily fall prey to this kind of fraud, getting their savings wiped out.”
In line with the constant influx of North Koreans here, the tally of their remittances is expected to be rising. As of March 2017, a total of 30,490 have resettled in the South, according to the Unification Ministry.
No official data on their remittances is available, however, given a government ban on South Koreans from wiring money to the North. The brokers sneak the funds through acquaintances, which is also illegal in China.
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 the South have sent money back home. Twenty-six percent, or 104, said they did so last year, with the average amount nearing 2.35 million won.
South Korea’s defense ministry began preparations for a full-blown environmental impact assessment on the ongoing deployment of the US THAAD missile defense system Tuesday, a ministry official said, a move that will inevitably delay its operation.
The move came one day after President Moon Jae-in personally ordered a thorough study on the environmental impact of the advanced missile shield, which, when fully deployed, will consist of at least six rocket launchers with 48 rockets designed to intercept aerial threats flying over the peninsula.