Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Atrocity of North Korean Lives for Sale

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea just released its latest report: "Lives for Sale: Personal Accounts of Women Fleeing North Korea to China." This 64-page document delves into the agonies that await many North Korean women who manage to escape Kim Jong Il's domain by fleeing into China, only to find they have become human commodities, with no rights and no recourse. Chronically threatened with being sent back to harsh punishment in North Korea, widely abused, they are given no protections whatsoever, no refugee status, no legal rights … nothing.

To compile this report, HRNK sent a South Korean woman, Hae-young Lee, a human rights specialist, on a series of research trips to China from 2004-2006. In China, she quietly sought out North Korean women. Many of these women end up in the hands of brokers who collect fees for peddling them to the "boarding houses" of China's sex trade or sell them into forced "marriages," in which they have no legal standing and function as virtual slaves.

"Lives for Sale" includes a price list of amounts paid in 2005 for such "wives," with the price for a North Korean woman for life ranging from $257 to upward of $1,027.

The individual accounts, with identities disguised to protect the women, include such tales as "They beat me so frequently that I thought I would die." A few of the women describe themselves as content with forced marriages, but the great majority describe lives of gross abuse. Some lost family members to famine in North Korea and were then deceived by human traffickers into seeking a better life in China, unaware of their real fate until the money changed hands. In some cases, they described themselves as having been kidnapped outright.

[Contains excerpts from a Forbes article by Claudia Rosett]

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