Thousands of North Korean women are reportedly being trafficked into China as sex slaves as they flee poverty and oppression in the hermit country.
According to Reuters, an expert on North Korea said on Monday that 60% of Korean women in China, as young as 9 years old, are being forced into the sex trade as prostitutes, wives and those who work for cybersex dens.
“Victims are prostituted for as little as 30 Chinese yuan ($4.30), sold as wives for just 1,000 yuan, and trafficked into cybersex dens for exploitation by a global online audience,” Yoon Hee-soon, author of the non-profit Korea Future Initiative report, said. “Many are sold more than once and are forced into at least one form of sexual slavery within a year of leaving their homeland.”
The report also noted that many North Korean women were being enslaved in brothels in districts around northeast China. However, women who traveled further south in cities such as Shanghai were branded with tattoos to ward off rival rings.
Those who were interviewed told Korea Future Initiative that some of the trafficked women die from either a sexually transmitted disease or abuse. There has been no comment from the Chinese embassy in London.
North Korean women and girls who were put in cybersex dens are believed to be aged between 12 to 29. But the report also revealed some of them could be much younger and cost up to $110. Most subscribers appear to come from South Korea.
Ms. Choi, one of the women interviewed, said that she was shocked to see a prepubescent girl inside the den when she was first brought to the apartment. She continued to describe her time working for the cybersex den, and how she was gang raped.
“(There) was a bed in front of a table with a computer and webcam. Four men … gang raped me. When the third man began raping me (I) was bleeding … I cannot remember any more,” Ms. Choi recounted.
Women who became pregnant were sent back to North Korea and forced to undergo an abortion, according to one survivor who was repatriated three times before successfully escaping to South Korea.
The woman, whose name was not revealed, said that “she was sent to a concentration camp where a doctor ripped her baby from her body – without anesthetic – and tore him limb from limb.”
Women forced into marriage were mostly sold for 1,000 to 50,000 yuan ($144 to $7,232). Some were raped and abused by their husbands.
The sexual exploitation of North Korean women is generating at least $105 million in annual profits for Chinese prostitution rings.
Some women are also sold by policemen after being arrested, while others are tricked by traffickers who pretend to offer asylum in other countries.
The report notes that trafficking networks often stretch their operation power to North Korea where “sub-brokers” scout for potential women in markets, villages, and transport hubs to fulfill orders of Chinese pimps and madams.
Co-chairman of Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, David Alton, called the abuse that was uncovered by the two-year investigation “horrific,” adding that the trafficking of North Korean women was “tied to China’s one-child policy, which has distorted the country’s gender balance due to the preference for boys.”
Korea Future Initiative, meanwhile, urged all states to help these North Korean women in China to escape. It also expressed that embassies should accept women who seek asylum as refugees.