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North Korean Women treated as “Livestock” in China

North Korean Women treated as “Livestock” in China

Imagine being sold to an older disabled man for $585 – a man who is only the first of a number of men you are forced to marry.

Imagine having to do 100 squats followed by 100 laps around a soccer field only to finish and endure an intense beating.

Imagine being forced to terminate a pregnancy by having two men stand on a plank that was placed on your pregnant belly and then losing not only your child’s life but yours as well.

Women from North Korea know this unbearable treatment all too well – for them it is reality.

Last week, a group of these women traveled to Washington to raise awareness of the extreme abuse North Korean refugees face at the launch of the report, “Lives for Sale: Personal Accounts of Women Fleeing North Korea to China” released by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

According to the report, women who flee hunger and repression in North Korea face a whole new set of obstacles in China where they are often sold as wives and prostitutes. Trafficked into “forced marriages,” these women face grueling labor from the Chinese men who buy them – not to mention the physical and sexual assault that is typical in these marriages. 

“The Chinese would even refer to North Korean women as pigs. We are forced to do farmwork and household chores by day and at night we were subjected to subhuman experiences,” said Bang Mi-Sun, a woman who escaped to South Korea in 2004, at the news conference.

“The world needs to know what is happening. If I had a chance to meet President Obama, I would tell him that North Korean women are being sold like livestock in China.”

Chinese authorities do not welcome the North Korean refugees and instead treat the women as economic migrants rather than the political asylum-seekers they are. They are often sent back to North Korea where they face punishment as political traitors for having fled their home country. At home, prison conditions are horrendous. Inmates often go without food or water and torture and abuse are commonplace. Some are even forced to undergo unwanted abortions.

For the women of North Korean it is a lose-lose situation.

With its 64 page report, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea hopes to highlight these abuses so both North Korea and China can be held accountable for their inhumane treatment of women. The report calls on the U.S. and other countries around the world to put pressure on China to protect the women who seek asylum in their country. Specifically the report calls on Beijing to prosecute human traffickers, take the initiative to ensure that marriages between North Korean women and Chinese men are consensual rather than coerced, and allow thousands of North Koreans access to asylum screenings by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. In North Korea the report asks that the government to do more to aid women without husbands or fathers, grant U.N. access to returnees, and implement farming and economic reforms in the country.

It is absolutely shameful that this type of abuse occurs anywhere in the world and even more shameful that it exists yet receives so little media attention. While I found some coverage of what was going on (see here and here) I find it appalling that this report did not make front page news. Women are being sold, abused, and treated like “livestock” with no consequences, but around the world we turn a blind eye. It is time that something be done!

After their visit and launch of the report in Washington, the U.S. State Department saluted the women for having shared their stories.

“These brave souls help us all remember the importance of improving the human rights situation of the North Korean people,” said State Department spokesman Robert Woods.

Yes, this is very important so why aren’t more people talking about it and moreover what’s the U.S. going to do about it? 

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Photo originally from Agence France Press story -

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10:19PM PST on Mar 3, 2010

people just don't value human life.

5:58AM PST on Mar 3, 2010

Korea is messed up plus like china they eat our pets and do not give a crap about women and children.

10:22AM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

Does someone know where I can get this report (PDF version preferred. It seems that it hasn't been posted on the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea's website yet.

6:57AM PDT on May 13, 2009

Once again this just makes me literally ill! What makes this worse is that the country "condones" and encourages this kind of abuse!

8:51AM PDT on May 12, 2009

This is what happens when there is no human rights...... and this is what everyone in the world should be fighting for!
All governments should demand human rights from these countries, NOT do business with them, but once again, no one wants to hear about HUMAN abuse, they want to trade and do business with China and countries like them, soon they will "OWN" the countries that continue trade with. We must take more of a stand and NOT do business with criminals!!

7:45AM PDT on May 12, 2009

Ataur, the UN will do nothing as China is a powerful voice. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are also strong because they have oil. The UN is an expensive joke and not worth the pixels that are taken up on this comment.

Women suffer all across the world even in Western countries, old attitudes die hard. In fact, you only have to look at modern institutions such as universities to see that women are not equal. I am patronised when I take my car to the garage and often have to send my hubbie to avoid the snide comments. The fact that I know what they are talking about actually makes it harder.

In the meantime, we need to ask our governments to help women, they are not political asylum seekers which makes it difficult but they are in fear of their lives which countries outside of Asia do not understand.

3:16PM PDT on May 8, 2009

Animals - worse than animals and from one of the oldest "cultures" in the world.
They demean themselves and their country - imprison these evil men

10:51AM PDT on May 8, 2009

The way they treat women here in Asia is appalling..
I just saw a news article lately about a South Korean actress who committed suicide.
In her suicide letter ,she said she was forced into sexual acts to further her career .
The article went on to state women there are often used to seal deals and do business...

I don't know if its true but its very sad.
Most times women are treated as commodities and the likes

10:27AM PDT on May 8, 2009

The way they treat women here in Asia is appalling..
I just saw a news article lately about a South Korean actress who committed suicide.
In her suicide letter ,she said she was forced into sexual acts to further her career .
The article went on to state women there are often used to seal deals and do business...

I don't know if its true but its very sad.
Most times women are treated as commodities and the likes

10:36PM PDT on May 7, 2009

The Chinese men's maltreatment of Korean women is based on racism as well as sexism, just as the Japanese army's was in World War II. Such culturally based oppression prevails because few inside or outside the oppressing culture rise up against it. This is why we need intervention by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in these terrible situations.

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