Remittances to the DPRK

Reuters offers a tale of how remittances from defectors in the South are making life easier for their family members who remain in the DPRK (a topic discussed here before). According to Reuters:

Next morning, she wired 15,000 yuan ($2,400) to the broker’s account at a bank in China, near the border. His wife confirmed receipt of the funds, informed her husband, and the defector’s brother got money in North Korea, a state where the average income is estimated at just $1,200 a year.

Brokers typically charge up to 30 percent fees for such transactions, but by and large, they work well.

“I heard it only took 15 minutes for my brother to get the money (after funds were wired),” said the defector, who is officially listed as dead in North Korea. “Two days later, my brother called me back saying ‘Thank you. We will spend your money wisely’.”

Some 70 percent send money home to the country they fled, says the Organization for One Korea, a South Korean support and research institute on North Korean defectors. Annual flows are estimated at $10 million a year as defectors try to help out families in a country where many are malnourished and lack access to basic healthcare.

Incoming funds from South Korea have become so significant that they have been dubbed the “Mount Halla Stream”, named after the tallest mountain in South Korea, said Kang Cheol-hwan, the author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang,” a survivor’s account of North Korean gulags.

This has helped offset a decline in funds from ethnic Koreans living in Japan that dominated in the mid-1980s and was known as the “Mount Fuji Stream”.

“In the past, pro-Pyongyang people in Japan and some Korean Americans sent money but they grew old and strong sanctions from Japan also took a toll. So the generation providing remittances has changed and it is now the defectors in South Korea who are doing it,” said Kang.

I have also interviewed a few former North Koreans about remittances. They all report it is common and brokers charge about 30%.

Read the full story here:
Insight: A secret plea for money from a mountain in North Korea


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