Remittances to families in North allowed by bill

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Remittances to families in North allowed by bill

The government yesterday introduced a bill to the legislature that allows North Korean defectors or separated families to send money to their families in the North.
The Ministry of Unification said they proposed amending the "revised law of inter-Korean interaction and cooperation" in the 19th National Assembly as part of an effort to expand the current interactions between the two Koreas in non-governmental sectors.

"We introduced the bill to the previous legislature in November 2011, but it wasn't discussed during its term," Kim Hyung-suk, spokesman for the Ministry of Unification, told reporters yesterday. "We will submit the revised bill to the National Assembly soon." Under the new bill, the government will permit civilians whose family members are left in the North, such as North Korean defectors or divided families, to send money to them for non-political, non-commercial purposes.

Those who want to bequeath assets to their Northern relatives will be also approved. Applicants need to get permission from the government in advance.
So far, people have sent remittances to their families in the North without government approval.
Sources say that they transfer money to bank accounts of brokers in China and then the brokers give it to their families in cash, after taking commissions of about 30 percent of the principal.
A survey conducted by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights shows that more than half of the North Korean defectors in the South send money to their families through the Chinese brokers, usually in amounts of 500,000 won ($428) to 1 million won.

"So far, there has been no law to assist those people sending money to the North," Kim, the Unification Ministry spokesman, said. "So we want them to do it within legal boundaries."
But the law isn't favored by defectors, Kim In-sung, researcher at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.
"Defectors tell us that they don't want to get approval from the government before sending money," Kim said.
"They are concerned that if they get approval from the government, information about their families could be leaked to the North's regime, which is intensifying border security and beefing up surveillance on money remittances, and their families could be in danger."

The Unification Ministry said that sending small amounts of money will be exempt from needing government approval.
"Under the new law, people who send a small amount of money won't have to get government approval," Kim said. "But we haven't determined how much it will be."

By Kim Hee-jin[heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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