Kim Sang-hun, director of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, estimates 20,000 to 30,000 North Korean women are now entrapped in China in what many observers see as a form of slavery.
"Most of the women," he says, "are forced into sexual slavery." Female defectors typically must choose between being forced into marriage, serving as a hostess in a karaoke bar or "massage” establishment, or escaping into forbidding mountains where life is a constant struggle for food and shelter.
Working in cahoots with Chinese Koreans, investing in karaoke bars in China, they are said to hold women against their will while paying them just enough to survive."South Korean businessmen are their best customers,” says Tim Peters, director of Helping Hands Korea, dedicated to aiding North Korean children in China.
“It’s a blot on South Korean society,” he says, blaming the Chinese for "doing nothing about a criminal system in violation of the rights of women.”How well do you know China?
“The North Korean economy is not getting better,” she says.
China’s policy outrages activists campaigning against a wide range of North Korean human rights abuses.The price for a North Korean woman named Kim Eun-sun, her mother, and her sister to escape to China was 2,000 Chinese yuan, slightly more than 0.Like thousands of North Korean women before them, they crossed the Tumen River into China and met a woman who said she would help them escape – only to discover that they’d been sold to a Chinese farmer who wanted a wife.“A lot of women come to China not knowing what they are getting into,” says Ms.“Women can sell themselves easily,” says Kim Tae-woo, president of the Korean Institute for National Unification.They sense they can hide within a forced marriage or brothel, he says, though they may not have quite imagined what they were getting into when they crossed into China.“Men are more conspicuous, more active,” says Mr.
“Men pass away more easily."Then, too, Kim adds, “A lot of men are serving in the North Korean military and maybe worry more about betraying the regime and changing their ideology.”In the end, the lure of relative freedom trumps the knowledge of the ordeal women are up against if caught.