July 19 (UPI) -- The increase in inter-Korea cooperation and exchange has not raised hopes among ordinary North Koreans their lives will improve, even in the event of national unification.
A North Korean source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Thursday North Koreans remain skeptical of their future despite months of inter-Korea reconciliation, cooperation and exchange.
"People in the area say they will continue to live poorly even in the case of unification," the source said. "[Authorities] say upon unification the people will eat and live well, but the people have been deceived so often they no longer believe what is said."
But the source also said North Koreans desire unification.
The issue is the limitations on the freedom and rights of ordinary North Korean citizens that would be in place, even after unification, the source said.
"The people look forward to unification, but it doesn't mean they can go back and forth to South Korea," Daily NK's source said. "If someone visits the South to see relatives, who would come back?"
North Korea's strict controls over its population have enabled the regime to mobilize its labor force on a national scale, but often at great cost to the people.
The 2018 Global Slavery Index found North Korea has the highest percentage of the population, or 2.6 million, under modern forms of slavery.
Modern slavery includes human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage and forced or servile marriage.
A total of 40.3 million people globally live under the conditions of modern slavery, according to the report.