Seoul admits only the churches help the North

Seoul, South Korea - The South Korean government "is not able to monitor exactly what happens in the north of the peninsula. It is forced increasingly to rely on the reports from NGOs and religious networks”. This was admitted yesterday by an anonymous director of the Ministry of Unification in Seoul, the body that deals with preparing the next meeting of the two Koreas.

The official’s comments were reported by Chosun Ilbo, the largest newspaper in South Korea which denounces: "We no longer have any news of the situation in the North. The only who succeed are those who work with dissidents and defectors, about 20 thousand people who do not trust the government though. This is why they seek the help of religious or non-governmental organizations”.

In fact, it was the Daily NK - a sort of huge online blog, which collects the testimonies of refugees from the North - to write the first news of the reform of the currency determined by Pyongyang. And it was Good Friends, a Protestant Christian agency in South Korea, to confirm the burning of banknotes on the streets of the capital of the Stalinist regime.

One refugee explains: "Many of us send home the money they earn. The government allows us to do so, because it desperately needs foreign exchange, but doing so also allows contact, by which we discover many things. In the past, however, we had to climb a hill and make smoke signals if we wanted to know something". The spread of mobile phones helps a lot, because it is impossible to check them all.

Dissidents help religious organizations, explains the anonymous refugee, "because they are the only ones that do not discriminate. The Seoul government has always beautiful words for us, but in practice we live as marginalized. This leads you not to have little faith in them".

The South Korean Catholic Church has a number of humanitarian projects aimed towards the North, which it has been pursuing for decades. Among the best known include the Centre for unity, on the border between the two countries, and the hospital in North Korea managed by the religious of St. Otto, the only religious sanatorium allowed to operate in the country.