Hyeonseo Lee is also increasingly focused on her personal security since the July publication of the best selling memoir about her escape from North Korea, “The Girl with Seven Names”.
Defectors residing through Chinese mobile phones that are smuggled across the border in South Korea contact relatives in the North.
It is all arranged through agents on the Chinese side, who also help smuggle money from your defectors to their relatives.
North Korea, however, has been cracking down with this lifeline, using cellphone signal detectors and interference devices, Lee said in an interview on the sidelines of the Ubud Writers and Readers festival. The signs can show the speaker’s location in the event the conversation lasts considerably longer than the usual minute.
Lee arranged for a lot of her family to join her in exile after her very own getaway but she still speaks to an aunt there.
“Right now the signal is not so good. Lee can’t hear their voice plainly … And my aunt says after a minute, oh my god, we need to turn off the phone now we are being tracked.”
The aunt was sent to a labour camp to get a couple months a year ago, accused of trying to escape. “The aunt was reported by her closest friend. That is how this regime works,” Lee said.
Sending money on the other side of the border – or private communications of any sort with the North – is also not legal in South Korea.
The cash from defectors goes into the increasingly recognized rural markets in North Korea, when the state food distribution system broke down, which sprouted up throughout the famine years. The markets are thriving hot spots of business, where individuals can buy or barter for matters, including South Korean movies and smuggled Hollywood.