North Korean authorities demanding bigger fees in 'illegal' remittance smuggling

Kang Mi Jin  |  2018-04-06 16:57
Remittance payments to North Korean residents from abroad are reportedly on the rise even as the authorities have warned against the practice as part of a nationwide crackdown on so-called 'anti-socialist' activities. The smuggling of cash into the country is, according to sources inside the country, often allowed under explicit permission from the central authorities or done directly with the help of Ministry of State Security agents

"In lectures and in other places these days, the authorities are declaring that remittances are completely illegal," a source located in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on March 2. "Nevertheless, money continues to pass through border security as officials either assist with or overlook the deliveries."

"I have heard from law enforcement officers about orders handed down from Kim Jong Un in February instructing them to siphon off fees from remittance transactions for the state," he said, adding that cash smugglers are finding more work opportunities now. 

The continued approval of remittance money entering the country – however "illegal" the authorities claim the activity to be – may be considered evidence of the government's interest in co-opting the activity in order to maintain this valuable source of foreign currency. 

In addition, individuals involved in the remittance trade who are now working together with the authorities are actually taking home less money due to government involvement, meaning that despite an apparent boost in overall activity, many people are suffering economically as a result. 

"Remittance smugglers are reporting that intervening State Security agents are now demanding an additional 20% fee, which has inevitably led to a rise in the total cost of fees per transaction," a source in Ryanggang Province said. "Last year, fees amounted to 30 or 35% at most, but now its up to 40 or even 50%."

Meanwhile, the "Central Anti-Socialist Group" (a special task force focusing on identifying anti-socialist elements) continues to carry out inspections of residents after new State Security-led lectures in early March. 

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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