North Korean Defector Send Up To $10 Million Back Home

David Lee, Jan. 16, 2016, 10:14 a.m.


North Korean defectors settled in South Korea are sending secretly some US$10 million a year to their families in the North. A senior government official on Sunday said, "We estimate that the amount of money North Korean defectors are sending to their families back home has reached $10 million a year. It has increased with their number, and ways of sending money have diversified." 



Some 3,000 to 5,000 of 20,000 defectors settled in South Korea are sending W1-5 million (US$1=W1,117) each to their families back home through middlemen every year, the government and defectors' organizations believe. The North could import about 18,500 tons of Thai rice ($540 per ton) or some 43,000 tons of corn ($230 per ton) for $10 million. 

The money is believed to be a mainstay of the North Korean underground economy. Since South Korea suspended trade with the North last May, the only cash that is officially funneled from the South into the North is about $50 million South Korean firms at the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex pay in wages. 



A security official said the defectors' money has created a lively economy in the North Korea-China border area. A member of a defectors organization said middlemen take commissions of about 30 percent. This means that if W1 million is sent, only about W700,000 reaches a defector's family in the North. That is equivalent to 1.86 million North Korean won. A defector from Chongjin said, "You can buy a house in a small or medium-sized city or enough rice for a family of four for a year for 1.86 million won."

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