Half of defectors send money North

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Half of defectors send money North

Nearly half of North Korean defectors in the South have remitted money to their families in the impoverished communist nation, a poll showed Sunday.

According to the survey of 396 defectors residing in the South aged 15 or older, 49.5 percent said they have sent money to their families in the North, while 46 percent said they have not and 4.5 percent said that they have no family there.

The survey was conducted from Dec. 14-31 last year by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, a Seoul-based private group.

The findings mark the first confirmation of widespread speculation that defectors provide financial help to their families facing chronic hunger in the North.

More than 20,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The defections have taken place mostly since the 1990s, and the border between the two Koreas remains heavily fortified.

The North’s economic hardships have apparently deepened due to U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests.

“North Korean defectors here, although they also suffer financial problems, want to help their families in the North. They think ‘How can I live well here by myself.’ Thus, it would be hard to prevent them from sending money to the North through the U.N. sanctions,” said Lee Yong-hwa, a senior researcher at the center.

Lee added that such remittances prompt many people in the North to yearn for the capitalist South.

With regard to the amount of money remitted last year alone, 31.7 percent of survey respondents said they sent 510,000 won ($450) to 1 million won, while 16.7 percent sent from 1.04 million to 2 million won and 12. 5 percent sent more than 5 million won.

One million South Korean won is reportedly worth six months of living costs in the North. South Korea’s per capita income is about $20,000, while many international organizations report that the North sits at approximately $1,000.

The average monthly income of defectors with jobs in the South was 1.04 million won and 38 percent of them were part-timers, the survey showed.

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