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Hundreds of thousands of North Korean women have been forced into marriages, sold into sex slavery, or sent to work in detention camps after escaping their despotic country and finding themselves trapped in China’s so-called “Red Zone,” a human rights group says.
A new study released Friday by international human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance details the horrific scenarios many women and girls – some as young as 12 – have gone through after escaping North Korea.
FILE: North Korean soldiers patrol next to the border fence near the town of Sinuiju across from the Chinese border town of Dandong. (Getty Images)
The organization’s North Korea Lead Legal Advisor, Sofia Evangelou, told The Telegraph the situation spiraled out of control during the COVID-19 pandemic as many vulnerable women found themselves stuck inside China’s locked down borders, making them an easy target for sex traffickers.
“The current situation leaves North Korean women and girls exposed to the start reality of either being sold into a lifetime of sexual and mental abuse, slavery, forced, labor, or reaching freedom,” she said.
One North Korean woman who’d been trafficked told the Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights she was sold off to a Chinese man who regularly beat her because she couldn’t get pregnant.
Another woman was sent back to a forced labor camp and tried to hide her pregnancy from authorities so they wouldn’t force her to have an abortion. Weeks later, she drowned in a river, overworked and malnourished.
FILE: The portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (L) and Kim Jong-Il (R) are seen in North Korea’s Sakchu county in North Pyongan province, as seen from the Chinese border city of Dandong on January 10, 2018. (Getty Images)
The U.S. State Department says many North Korea refugees and asylum seekers living irregularly in China are particularly vulnerable to traffickers who lure, drug, detain, or kidnap North Korean women upon arrival.
As many as 30,000 children born in China to North Korean women and Chinese men have not been registered upon birth, rendering them stateless and vulnerable to possible exploitation, the State Department says.
“A full investigation into the human rights abuses suffered by women in and around North Korea is urgently needed,” Evangelou said. “If nothing is done to address the urgent human rights situation for North Korean women, the situation will only get worse.”