Sonyong Lee fled North Korea and recently arrived in South Korea. She has been receiving letters from her mother who is still in North Korea and Sonyong has shared one of her mother's letters with Radio Free Asia.
"I understand your difficult circumstances as you try to settle down in your new life in South Korea. But it is a very difficult moment here. Please help me one more time," Sonyong's mother wrote to Sonyong. Sonyong sent money to Sonyong's mother in March but Sonyong's mother's recent letter indicates how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting her negatively with the cost of food rising and food running out. North Korea has enforced border security ever since the COVID-19 pandemic and by doing so the activities of brokers, smugglers, and defectors have significantly decreased.
The Ministry of Unification in South Korea noted that only 12 North Koreans escaped during the pandemic which is a comparable decrease of 320 North Korean escapees during the same time frame of last year. "The numbers of North Korean defectors who entered South Korea during the second quarter of this year was the lowest ever," the spokesperson of the Ministry of Unification said.
Songyong is advised to wait until the current level of North Korean border security relaxes to get a crackdown of North Korean defectors and brokers to eventually be able to send money to her mother again.