North Korean Christians face starvation amid the pandemic
Persecuted Christians in North Korea are facing heightened challenges amid the coronavirus outbreak, fearing they might not survive because defectors are now barred from sending money back home. Songyon Lee, a Christian living in South Korea, told Radio Free Asia that she'd received several letters from her mother in North Korea detailing the hardships believers are facing during the pandemic.
North Korea has increased border security due to COVID-19, causing many North Korean brokers’ and smugglers’ activities to decrease. Earlier this year, the country shut down cross-border travel with China and Russia, restricted domestic travel, and placed diplomats and foreigners under effective house arrest, The Washington Post reports.
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,” he said of getting money to her mother in North Korea.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA notes that the inability to send money affects the North Korean underground church of an estimated 300,000 believers.
A March 2019 survey by the North Korea Human Rights Information Centre in South Korea showed that six out of ten defectors had sent money to their family members in North Korea, with the average amount of $2,460 sent each time, according to Open Doors.