Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Influence of North Korean Defectors on their Homeland

A 43-year-old North Korean defector who has taken asylum in South Korea since 1997 believes that his and other defectors’ remittances to their relatives in the communist state help enlighten them about the free, democratic and capitalist South.

“When we make remittances to our loved ones in the North, we talk to them over the phone to ensure the money was properly sent. Through such talks, a wave of news about our capitalist society flows in and spreads there,” Kang said, refusing to give his full name to protect his family remaining in the North.

“Such circulating news forms public opinion there, enabling North Koreans to come to terms with how they have been fooled (by the regime).”

“I annually send about 1 million won ($890) to my aunt ― enough for a family of five to live on in the North. We defectors send the money, not because we have much money, but because we know better than anyone else about their economic ordeals and hardships.”

Kang explained that North Korean defectors usually send their money through ethnic Chinese in Seoul, who ask their Chinese relatives or acquaintances inside the North or near the North Korea-China border to deliver the money. The brokers take 30 percent of the total remittances, he said.

“As North Korean authorities are rarely harsh in dealing with Chinese nationals, the brokers with Chinese nationality can operate in the North to deliver the money from us here,” Kang said.

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