A female remittance broker in her 40s was recently arrested and is now in the North Korean court system awaiting sentencing, Daily NK has learned.
“The broker is in her 40s and hails from Kimjongsuk County. She continued to connect to [defectors in] China by cellphone and conduct remittance activities despite the closure of the Sino-North Korean border,” a source from Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on Mar. 2.
The woman is accused of brokering cross-border remittances by cellphone even after North Korea’s border with China was closed in January to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) into the country.
The woman was arrested in early February, shortly after the border was closed. In the month since then, she was reportedly first in quarantine and then became the subject of a preliminary examination.
Preliminary examinations include the entire interrogation process prior to suspects being indicted.
ARRESTED ON UNFAMILIAR GROUND
Kimjongsuk County is a remote border county west of Hyesan in Ryanggang Province. The woman was actually arrested in the South Hamgyong Province town of Sinpo, on the East Sea coast some 60 kilometers east of the industrial city of Hamhung.
According to Daily NK sources, the broker had traveled to Sinpo after a defector requested that she find someone there.
“It was her first time in the area,” one source explained. “So when she arrived in the neighborhood she asked about the person in question. One of the locals who heard this thought she spoke like someone from near the [Sino-North Korean] border, and quickly reported her to the police.”
The remittance broker found the home of the person she was looking for before being arrested by Ministry of State Security (MSS) agents, he added.
RELATED TO A POWERFUL PARTY OFFICIAL
“People are saying that they [the MSS] arrested some big spy or something, given she was a broker who came from the border region,” another source told Daily NK.
“She couldn’t pay off the authorities to make the problem go away, so the woman got transferred to the courts and is likely to face harsh punishment,” she added.
The broker is reportedly from a family of a powerful Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) official, but the family has been unable to help the woman get out of her predicament.
“Because the case happened in a different region they [her family] couldn’t take action to deal with it quickly. Once the woman was transferred to the MSS in the border region, it was too late to do anything about it,” the source explained.
*Translated by Chris Green
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