To hide from the Chinese police, families or small groups of [North Korean] refugees climb into the mountains of northeast China and build shelters to hide in and sleep at night. During the day, they walk down into towns in search of food or work.
A secret underground railroad, run mostly by Christian activists, operates to get refugees to safety. If the conductors on this railroad are caught, they are arrested and sentenced to prison in China. Brave North Korean activists, who could be deported if they are caught — and certainly executed — risk their lives to help the refugees.
One woman refugee said that ethnic Korean Chinese men hunt for them in the forests and mountains. If they find them they rape them and force them to "marry."
There is evidence that women are trafficked to China from inside North Korea as well. Tim Peters, director of Helping Hands, assisted a 26-year-old woman refugee who was sold to a violent man. After the death of her father and mother in North Korea, a sympathetic woman offered to help her get to China where she could live with the woman's relatives. But after they crossed the Tumen River, she observed the woman being paid 1,500 yuan ($190) by a man. She was sold to a married man who bought her to be his concubine. She escaped with the help of a Christian activist.
There are numerous reports of women in North Korea being so hungry and desperate that they allow traffickers to sell them to someone in China. As awful as this is, it enables them to live, eat, and maybe send some money or food back to other family members.
Refugees caught in China are routinely arrested and deported to North Korea. Those who flee from North Korea are considered traitors to the government and the ruling ideology of Juche or self reliance. The returnees are imprisoned in detention centers, interrogated, mistreated, and starved. Pregnant women are forcibly aborted or newborns killed to keep "foreign" blood out of North Korea.
According to a first-hand report, a 26-year-old woman in a detention center was executed for "selling herself" in China. Yun Hye-ryeon, wife of Aquariums of Pyongyang author Kang Chul-hwan, was in the cell next to this woman. The woman had crossed into China to feed herself and her baby, but according to the North Korean officials she fell under the influence of capitalism and sold herself for money. She was publicly executed as a lesson to others.
[Excerpted from an article by Donna M. Hughes, National Review]