Thousands of North Korean Women Sold Off for Sexual Slavery in China

Women from Myanmar are also at risk of being trafficked to China. (Image:  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
Women from Myanmar are also at risk of being trafficked to China. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

A report published by a London-based rights activist group, the Korea Future Initiative, has revealed that thousands of North Korean women are being forced into sexual slavery in China. Some are made to marry Chinese men. The trade apparently brings in US$100 million per year for criminals involved in the activity.

Trafficked into China

“I was sold [to a brothel] with six other North Korean women at a hotel. We were not given much food and were treated badly… After eight months, half of us were sold again. The broker did bad things to me… When I arrived [at the new brothel], I had bruises on my body. [The broker] was beaten then stabbed in the legs by some members of the gang,” a victim said in a statement (BBC).

The trafficked females are often aged 12 to 29 years, with some even as young as 9 years old. They are trafficked directly from North Korea or abducted while in China. Once caught, the females are forced into prostitution for as little as 30 Chinese yuan. Some are sold off as wives for 1,000 Chinese yuan (US$145). Young girls are also forced to work in the cybersex industry, where a few of them are sexually assaulted on cam for the benefit of viewers. Most of the subscribers to such shows are thought to be South Koreans.

Thousands of North Korean women are forced into prostitution in China. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The report was prepared after two years of work during which more than 45 survivors of sexual abuse were interviewed. Many North Korean women are essentially trapped in the trade in China, since going back to their country will result in their capture. The North Korean government will treat them as escapees from the country and punish them severely.

“At a time when significant global capital is invested in China and, more recently, political capital expended on North Korea, it is a damning indictment that North Korean women and girls are left languishing in the sex trade… Condemnation is insufficient. Only tangible acts can dismantle China’s sex trade, confront a North Korean regime that abhors women, and rescue sex slaves scattered across brothels, remote townships, and cybersex dens in mainland China,” the organization said in a statement (CNN).

Myanmar trafficking

Trafficking of women into China is not just a problem in North Korea. Myanmar has been dealing with the menace for several years. Females from Kachin and other northern states are abducted and transported to China where they are sold off for US$3,000 to US$13,000. Many of these unfortunate women are kept locked in a room and repeatedly raped until they become pregnant.

Women who try to come back to North Korea may be killed for desertion. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

“Once trafficked women and girls gave birth to a baby, they were sometimes able to escape their captors, but usually at the cost of leaving their child behind with little hope of seeing the child again. Back in Myanmar, survivors grapple with trauma and stigma as they try to rebuild their lives. There are very few services for trafficking survivors, and the few organizations that provide desperately needed assistance cannot meet the survivors’ needs,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Chinese demand for women from other nations is fueled partly by the gender ratio imbalance where there are more men than women. A consequence of China’s one-child policy, the skewed gender ratio means that many men won’t be able to marry. As such, many search for foreign brides, with some resorting to trafficked females.

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