May 28, 2023

How COVID-19 has severed defectors from their loved ones in North Korea

The DPRK’s border controls have made it increasingly difficult to keep families informed and financially afloat

North Korea’s imposition of strict border controls in response to the pandemic has had dramatic consequences for its people over the last two years, stifling the import of goods and humanitarian aid, further limiting freedom of movement and stranding DPRK nationals abroad.

But Pyongyang’s COVID-19 measures have also had unexpected impacts on another group of people — the 30,000 or so North Korean defectors now living in the South. Defectors report that it has not only become harder to communicate with loved ones still in the North, but sending cash home has also become prohibitively expensive.