Thursday, March 29, 2007

On North Korean defectors, brokers and human traffickers

Many North Koreans escaping to China often fall prey to unscrupulous human traffickers.

One such North Korean woman says she defected because of the harsh conditions in making a living back home. Born and raised in Onsong in North Hamgyong province, she lived with her family and worked the farm and gathered edible wild plants to put food on the table. Her parents and husband dutifully went to work each day but remained idle because there is no commerce in the town.

"We were living without any hope or future prospects. I wanted to give my 6-year-old son a chance to live a better life," she said.

After hearing about a neighbor who had returned from China after making a tidy sum as a migrant worker, she decided to try her luck. Before leaving, she promised her young son she would come back after saving 10,000 yuan (about 150,000 yen).

In June of last year, she approached a broker in North Korea to help her get to China. It was easy, she recalled. The broker took her to the Tumen River and simply told her to wade across to China. She sloshed through the shallow water and reached the opposite bank where another man was waiting for her.

As the broker in North Korea did not ask a fee in advance, she assumed payment would be made upon her return. But to her horror, she realized she had been sold to a Chinese farmer in need of a wife to work on his farm in Shandong province in eastern China. Her new "husband" communicated with her via hand gestures that he wanted her to do the backbreaking farm work and all the household chores.

A month later, she saw her chance to escape and fled.

She currently works for a personnel dispatch agency, earning 1,500 yuan (about 22,000 yen) a month and living in a cramped and spartan apartment with 10 other North Korean women. Sources close to her say that she is working as a prostitute.


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