N. Korean broker exiled for handling defector remittances

Many brokers have chosen just to turn off their Chinese mobile phones amid crackdowns on international calls, a source told Daily NK

A North Korean broker who handled remittances sent from defectors in South Korea and other countries was recently banished to an area far from the Sino-North Korean border, Daily NK has learned. 

The broker, a woman in her early 50s from Musan County, was exiled after making frequent calls to both South Korea and China while managing remittances from defectors in those countries, according to a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province on Monday. 

The woman was caught red-handed making an international call in early June and was exiled with her family to a farm in Hwadae County, an area in the southernmost part of North Hamgyong Province. 

“She likely offered officials a bribe to avoid getting sent to a labor camp,” the source said. 

Following broader government attempts to promote anti-defector sentiment in the country, the broker’s banishment is likely aimed at instilling fear among the population that engaging in any activities relating to defectors will lead to punishment. 

“The authorities can’t catch everybody so they are just trying to make examples of a few to scare the rest,” the source told Daily NK, adding, “Sometimes brokers are just called into Ministry of State Security offices to write up promises they won’t make any international calls or manage remittances ever again.”

According to the source, many brokers have chosen to turn off their Chinese mobile phones, which has made it more difficult for people to use rental phones to make international calls. 

“Brokers have made a good deal of money renting out their phones to people to make international calls, but the atmosphere is too frightening to do that nowadays,” the source said. “Some people who were happy to lend their phones even as recently as last month are now reluctant to do so.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.