North Korean police and other officials prey on women with near-total impunity, a rights group said Thursday, in a rare report on sex abuse in the isolated nation.

According to interviews drawn from a US-based Human Rights Watch, more than 50 North Koreans shared details of rape and other abuses perpetrated by security officers such as border guards, abut also civilian officials.

North Korea has been accused of widespread rights abuses by the United Nations and other critics. It is a deeply hierarchical and patriarchal society where traditional values of deference to authority still hold sway.

However, the vast majority of both defectors and market traders in the North are female. Many women have more freedom of movement as compared to men because they are not assigned a state job from which their absence will be noticed.

North Korean women caught fleeing the country to China or who are repatriated from its neighbour face severe punishment including torture, imprisonment and sexual abuse, the report said.

“Every night some woman would be forced to leave with a guard and be raped,” said one abuse victim in her 30s who was once held at a border detention centre.

“Every night a prison guard would open the cell. I stood still quietly, acting like I didn’t notice, hoping it wouldn’t be me,” she said.

Traders found smuggling goods across the border with China in order to sell at state-sanctioned private markets are forced to pay  bribes mostly in form of sexual favours, the report said.

Perpetrators include managers at state-owned enterprises, and gatekeeper officials at the markets and on roads and checkpoints, such as “police, prosecutors, soldiers, and railroad inspectors on trains,” it said.

The concept of rape is very different in the North, where it is seen as applying only if violence is used.

One anonymous former textile trader in her 40s recounted being treated like a sex toy “at the mercy of men”.

“On the days they felt like it, market guards or police officials could ask me to follow them to an empty room outside the market, or some other place they’d pick,” where they forced sexual encounters, she said.

“It happens so often nobody thinks it is a big deal. We don’t even realise when we are upset,” she added.

“But we are human, and we feel it,” she said. “So sometimes, out of nowhere, you cry at night and don’t know why.”

Kim is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, where state surveillance is widespread and dissent not tolerated. Authorities impose total control over the media to a point where the global #MeToo campaign against abuse of women has entirely passed North Korea by.

Pyongyang maintains that it protects and promotes “genuine human rights”, and says there is no justification for the West to try to set human rights standards for the rest of the world.

International criticism on the issue has been seen as a smear campaign to undermine its “sacred socialist system”.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *