Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Musselkanaal reception centre. Photo: Je Seung Lee/Al Jazeera

Gilze en Rijen, the Netherlands — There are hundreds of North Korean defectors living in Europe, many considering it safer for themselves and their families still in the North than either South Korea or the U.S.

Why it matters: "North Korea considers the U.S. and South Korea as enemies, while its view on Europe is more neutral,” says Jihyun Park, outreach officer at Connect to North Korea, an NGO that campaigns for the rights of North Korean defectors worldwide. Most defectors from North Korea are eventually offered South Korean citizenship, leading to some European countries deporting asylum seekers there. But right activists protest against this, saying North Koreans complain of discrimination in South Korea, which is ill-equipped to handle so many refugees.

There are currently 91 North Koreans in the Netherlands, 25 of whom are refugees, according to official statistics. Kyung-Ae Choi, a North Korean woman in her early fifties, first arrived in Europe on a fake Chinese passport, in 2012.

  • "I was as cheerful as a kid," she said of her first train ride in Europe, describing an unprecedented sense of freedom. She is currently living at a reception centre in the Netherlands.
  • Because she is undocumented, Choi is unable to work. Each month, she is obliged to meet with the organization in charge of expediting the departure of foreign nationals not entitled to remain.
  • "I really feel like I want to die [after each meeting]. I have even thought about leaving the kids behind and killing myself," said Choi. "They tell me to provide evidence on why my husband and family back in North Korea will be sent to prison camps if I move to South Korea. But this is something that you cannot prove with a piece of paper.”

The bottom line: Ban-suk Jung, Choi's oldest son, says he feels “much more relaxed” and free in the Netherlands than he did in China. Still, he says “it is hard to dream when you don't know what you can do or where you will be. Right now, all I can think about is getting the permanent residency, and then I will be able to think about what I want to do and plan my future."

Go deeper: Read the full Al Jazeera report.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
49 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.