Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tales of Horror Falling Mostly on Deaf Ears

Theirs were compelling tales of privation, hardship, sorrow and unspeakable horrors of sexual slavery.

Kyeong-Sook Cha and Soon-Hee Ma, two defectors from North Korea, testified for the House Committee on International Relations, and provided firsthand accounts of widespread tragedy occurring in the Sino-North Korean border areas.

In order to avoid the massive starvation resulting from North Korea's failed economy, the daughters of these women had escaped to China to earn money for food. When their daughters failed to return, the women followed, braving the icy waters of Tumen River and the security forces on both sides of the border.

Kyeong-Sook Cha went to China with her younger daughter to look for her older daughter, who had disappeared. In the process, she witnessed widespread sexual slavery of North Korean women in China. Cha and her younger daughter were likewise kidnapped, sold as sex slaves, captured by Chinese police, repatriated to North Korea, abused by North Korean security agents, witnessed torture of pregnant women and babies, escaped to China and repeated the experience that would have broken most women the first time.

Despite horrible suffering, Cha miraculously found her older daughter and finally escaped to freedom together.

Soon-Hee Ma's oldest daughter also went to China when the food distribution ceased. Fearing reprisals for her daughter's defection, she and her two remaining daughters escaped North Korea to look for her eldest daughter. They were separated and sold off by human traffickers in China.

Ma, too, was eventually reunited with her daughters. Ma's oldest daughter had been sold to a Chinese "husband," and was able to convince him to buy her family back. Before Chinese authorities could repatriate them to North Korea, they bluffed their way into a South Korean consulate and to safety.

[Excerpted from an article by James Na in The Seattle Times]

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