Since recently arriving in South Korea, believer Sonyong Lee* has received several letters from her mother still in North Korea. Recently, Sonyong shared one of her mother’s letters with Radio Free Asia—her words are a sobering indicator of the worsening situation North Koreans are facing in the isolated country during COVID-19.
“I understand your difficult circumstances as you try to settle down in your new life in South Korea,” Sonyong’s mother wrote. “But it is a very difficult moment here. Please help me one more time.”
Sonyong’s mother had received money from her in March; it clearly wasn’t easy for her to ask for help again. But with the cost of food going up and stocks of imported food running out, the North Korean people need more help than ever just to survive in their country.
The Ministry of Unification in South Korea has noted that only 12 North Korean escapees had managed to arrive in Seoul from April to June this year—seven in April, two in May, and three in June. A drastic decrease over the last year. During these three months in 2019, 320 North Koreans made it to South Korea.
‘The numbers of North Korean defectors who entered South Korea during the second quarter of this year was the lowest ever,’ a spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification has said.
With enforced border security due to COVID-19, many North Korean brokers’ and smugglers’ activities have radically decreased. One broker told Songyon, “I’m afraid and scared of even making a call these days; there is a real crackdown on North Korean defectors and brokers. Not now, but let’s wait until the current level of security calms down.”