A North Korean money transfer broker in Hoeryong recently turned in the family member of a defector, sending shock waves through the local community.

A Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province reported yesterday that a man in his 50s, surnamed Kim, was arrested by Hoeryong’s Ministry of State Security branch after a money transfer broker he had worked with alerted the authorities.

The money transfer broker had helped Kim receive around RMB 6,000 (around USD 945), not including the broker’s fee, from his daughter in China. As Kim headed home after receiving the money, however, he was arrested in an alleyway by two security agents.

The agents searched him and upon discovering the cash they asked where it had come from. Kim replied that he had received the money from his daughter. “We’re going to have to investigate whether it was your daughter or ‘the enemies’ who sent this money,” the agents replied, before taking him to a detention center at the ministry’s headquarters.

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A picture of Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province, taken in February 2018. / Image: Daily NK

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Kim’s money had been confiscated and he was accused of being a criminal.

Local security officials told Kim that he needed to pay them RMB 50,000 (around USD 7,882) if he did not want to end up in a reeducation camp. In short, the agents were demanding that he “use whatever means necessary” to acquire more money from his daughter in China.

According to the source, security officials have grown poorer because they are unable to receive as many bribes as before due to the closure of the China-North Korea border. This has shifted their focus to using money transfer brokers to take as much money from defectors as possible.

He noted that there are many brokers who work in cooperation with the authorities.

Brokers are aware that most defector women in China face dire financial conditions, but nonetheless help government officials steal the money they send to their relatives.

“I’ve heard recently that security officials and money brokers are even discussing beforehand who they’ll arrest,” the source said. “Apart from people who receive large amounts of money [from their relatives abroad], officials are using the roundup of people who receive smaller amounts as way to boost their arrest records.”

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

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.