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NGO details sex trafficking of North’s women

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May 21,2019
The sexual exploitation of North Korean women and girls generates an estimated $105 million annually for Chinese criminal networks, according to a report released by a London-based human rights group Monday.

The Korea Future Initiative, a non-governmental human rights organization, described a year-long study of thousands of North Korean women and girls forced into marriages and pregnancies, organized prostitution and cybersex work in China.

The report found that the victims, generally between the ages of 12 and 29 and overwhelmingly female, could be trafficked directly from North Korea or coerced, sold or abducted in China. They are subject to abuse thanks to a demand for sex slaves in China.

Some victims - including a nine-year-old girl - were trafficked into Chinese cybersex dens, where they are sexually assaulted or forced to perform graphic acts in front of webcams live-streamed to a paying global audience - including South Korean men. A single live-stream session featuring a North Korean pre-teen can cost as much as $110.

Victims were sold into marriage - where they could face rape, exploitation or enslavement by their husbands - for just ¥1,000 ($144) or be prostituted for as little as ¥30 per sex act, according to the report.

Women were sold multiple times, many forced into some form of sexual slavery within a year of leaving North Korea.

The reported released on Monday, entitled, “Sex Slaves: the Prostitution, Cybersex and Forced Marriage of North Korean Women and Girls in China,” was also presented Monday afternoon at the British Houses of Parliament. Four North Korean female survivors served as panelists, sharing their experiences of sexual exploitation.

One victim, Park Ji-hyun, a former high-school teacher in North Korea, shared her story of being deceived by a broker and being sold into forced marriage for ¥5000, living as a slave for six years and giving birth to a son. She was eventually arrested by Chinese police and forcibly repatriated to the North, where she was incarcerated in a camp.

Park eventually escaped to the United Kingdom and currently serves as an outreach officer at Connect: North Korea, a U.K.-based organization aiding North Korean refugees.

The study included testimonies of victims living in China and survivors in South Korea, as well as Chinese citizens and rescuers.

According to the report, an estimated 60 percent of female North Korean refugees in China are trafficked into the sex trade industry, and of those, nearly half are forced into prostitution; over 30 percent are sold into forced marriages; and 15 percent end up in cybersex dens.

As many as 200,000 North Koreans have fled to mainland China, according to a United Nations Human Rights Council report in 2014.

Brothels exploiting North Koreans identified by survivors and researchers were mainly located in towns surrounding larger cities in northeast China and employed young girls, mostly 15 to 25. Prostitution is illegal under Chinese law.

Likewise, the report found that any escape by the North Korean women from the Chinese sex trade industry was unlikely, with many victims facing death.

The report recommended that countries, in conjunction with North Korean defectors, should lodge complaints with the International Court of Justice and impose sanctions on China if it doesn’t revise its policies toward North Korean refugees.

It also calls on South Korea to “reconsider its silence on North Korean human rights” and for countries to facilitate the escape of North Koreans in Chinese territories.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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