North Korean women and girls who have fled to China in search of freedom and safety have found horror instead, according to a new report from the international human rights group Global Rights Compliance (GRC).
The report sheds light on the dire conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of women who ended up falling victim to sexual slavery and forced pregnancy at the hands of sex trafficking gangs in the border region between China and North Korea, known as the Red Zone.
The researchers highlighted how pandemic lockdowns, closed borders, and news blackouts in both countries exacerbated the human rights abuses the vulnerable refugees suffered.
GRC, which has been working closely with the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) and other North Korean human rights organizations in Seoul, estimates that there are now between 150,000-200,000 North Korean defectors in China and that about 70-80% of them are trafficked into the sex trade.
According to the NKDB, there have been over 82,000 recorded cases of violations against North Korean women. The situation is made more alarming by reports indicating girls as young as 12 are trapped in the Red Zone.
Many of these women would rather endure abuse and sexual exploitation than risk returning to the oppressive conditions in North Korea. Those who are forcibly repatriated are often labeled as “traitors” and subjected to invasive strip searches during interrogations, followed by immediate imprisonment.
Speaking during the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, NKDB Director of International Cooperation Hanna Song urged the international community to put an end to the “Gender-based violence is a vicious cycle for North Korean women who cross the DPRK-PRC border.”
Chinese and North Korean organized crime networks reportedly generate over $105 million annually from the trafficking of North Korean women.
Among those sold for just a few hundred dollars was a North Korean woman who was trafficked to the Northeast Chinese city of Yanbian.
In her testimony with NKDB, she revealed that after living with a Han Chinese for one year, she was beaten for not being able to bear a child.