Imagine the mayor of your town going about his day-to-day business. He stops at a food cart, orders a hot dog, and then almost casually grabs the female vendor by her hair, drags her into an ally and rapes her. His assistants strangle her and dump the body so she won’t report him. Then he goes to lunch like nothing happened.
Or imagine you take a trip to across the border to Canada, meet a guy and end up pregnant. Now imagine you are later arrested by federal agents for the “crime” of conceiving a child with a foreigner, and they lock you in a holding cell and punch and kick your stomach until you miscarry.
These things are happening right now in North Korea, according to reports from the U.N., human rights groups, and eyewitness accounts.
This cruelty against women in North Korea has gotten worse in recent years, according to the U.N.. The U.S. last month slapped sanctions directly on leader Kim Jong-un, for being one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. It’s rare for the U.S. to single out an individual leader with sanctions, but the country’s human rights abuses have been unusually cruel over the decades. Many of these are against women in a male-dominated society in which rape against adult women is not really considered a crime.
Here are 5 reasons why the world’s women should despise Kim Jong-un, whose regime brutalizes women on a daily basis.
Government officials rape women – in public – and kill them to cover it up
According to the U.N., agents who police the marketplace, inspectors on trains and soldiers are increasingly sexually assaulting women in public areas, such as train stations. While the rape of minors is severely punished in the Hermit Kingdom, the rape of adults is not really considered a crime, according to a report from the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Because of constant food shortages caused by the nation’s broken socialist food distribution system, scores of women have started small, makeshift businesses just to survive, while their husbands and fathers are forced to get up and go to work at state jobs where they are either not paid at all or earn around $100 per month. To make sure their family doesn’t starve, women go out to earn a living in the black market, which is technically illegal but tolerated, as officials can make money from bribes from small business owners.
A small business in North Korea usually means just a person carrying around a bag or carts of small food items that they sell at train stations and such. The vast majority of these are women, and the U.N. says officials have regularly raped these women in public.
Rapes are also part of everyday life in North Korea’s prison camps – where you could be thrown for such “crimes” as leaving the country to look for food or supplies or to earn cash across the border – and women and especially teenage girls are raped by guards every day. Some rape victims are murdered to cover up the crime.
A former guard told the U.N. “how the camp authorities made female inmates available for sexual abuse to a very senior official who regularly visited the camp,” and that “after the official raped the women, the victims were killed.”
Brigades of virgin school girls have been put on “satisfaction teams” to service government officials
Being a high-level official in North Korea can mean you are given troops of school girls as young as 14 years old, which are “assigned” into prostitution as part of official manjokcho (만족조), or “satisfaction teams.”
As North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated countries, Borderless News Online could not independently confirm details on this. But it has been reported that young virgins have been called into service in this unit and given no option to refuse.These girls allegedly received nearly two years of training and were required to have sex with high level officials, although it is unclear whether this occurred while they were underage when they became 18 years old. Aside from this, some of their official duties supposedly have been giving massages and singing and dancing while scantily clad.
The unit, which was estimated to have 2,000 women and girls, was allegedly disbanded a few years back. But that could not be confirmed independently by Borderless News Online, as North Korea is notoriously secretive.
Mixed race babies are drowned minutes after their birth — and mothers are forced to watch
North Korea is under the notion that they are a pure race – much as the Nazis thought during the WWII era – and do not allow mixed babies.
Women in North Korea’s northeast provinces often sneak over the northern border to get food and supplies, and at times to work and earn cash. It’s illegal to leave North Korea, and women caught returning are arrested and tested for pregnancy. If they are found to be pregnant, their baby must die – end of story.
The U.N. reported that abortions can happen in many ways, including having state security agents punch and kick women repeatedly in the stomach until they miscarry, all the while hurling insults at her and saying that impure babies cannot be born in North Korea.
Witnesses told the U.N. that the new-born baby of a women who had been arrested for leaving the country was drowned in a bucket of water by guards immediately after its birth. The guards reportedly said: “the baby is not human” and “[it] does not deserve to live because it is impure”. Mothers are often forced to watch this as a punishment.
According to the U.N., a woman named Ms. Jee Heon testified that she watched a mother forced to suffocate her child moments after giving birth: “…there was this pregnant woman who was about 9 months pregnant. She worked all day. The babies who were born were usually dead, but in this case the baby was born alive. The baby was crying as it was born; we were so curious, this was the first time we saw a baby being born. So we were watching this baby and we were so happy. But suddenly we heard the footsteps. The security agent came in and this agent of the Bowibu said that… usually when a baby is born we would wash it in a bowl of water, but this agent told us to put the baby in the water upside down. So the mother was begging. ‘I was told that I would not be able to have the baby, but I actually got lucky and got pregnant so let me keep the baby, please forgive me’, but this agent kept beating this woman, the mother who just gave birth. And the baby, since it was just born, it was just crying. And the mother, with her shaking hands she picked up the baby and she put the baby face down in the water. The baby stopped crying and we saw this water bubble coming out of the mouth of the baby. And there was an old lady who helped with the labour, she picked up the baby from the bowl of water and left the room quietly. So those kind of things repeatedly happened. That was in the detention center in the city of Chongjin of Hamgyong Province.”
Women sold as sex slaves
North Korea has a rigid class structure, much like a caste system, called the songbun system, and once you’re born into one class it’s difficult or even impossible to move out of it. Everything is based on politics and history, so if you had a grandfather who fought against Japanese occupation, you’d be in a highest class structure. Conversely, if you’ve got a lawyer, merchant, landlord or Christian minister in your ancestry — the atheist state actually at one time had many Christians — you’re in the lowest 20 percent, called the “hostile class.”
Women in the lower 20 percent suffer the most, and abject poverty forces many into the sex industry. Thousands also leave North Korea and many fall prey to human traffickers, who sell them against their will into prostitution or as brides to single men.
Women have zero rights or power – even though they bring home the bacon
While women in today’s North Korea earn most of the household money, men still call the shots in a hyper male-dominated society,
Women earn 70 percent of their family’s income in North Korea, according to the Korean Institute for National Unification, an organization run by South Korea’s government. They earn more than their share, since more than half of the nation’s workforce — much of which is under-the-table — are women.
Most men either serve in the army or work at state jobs in which they earn the equivalent to just a few dollars a month, and where there’s no work to do.
That leaves women to go out to find food for the family or work in the country’s black market.
While North Korea’s economy decades ago outpaced the now rich South Korea, North Korea’s economy collapsed after the fall of the Soviet Union, its main sponsor. After that, a massive famine swept the country, and witnesses said dead bodies would be seen in the street here and there just left their to rot, as nearly 1 million people died due mostly to opportunistic diseases brought on by having absolutely nothing to eat.
The state food rationing system broke down, and families survived by women collecting things that grew in the forest, such as wild mushrooms, and selling them. Or the might rig up makeshift outdoor cooking stoves, cobbling together anything edible they found and cooking and selling it.
But despite women now being their families’ lifeline and only access to food, men still dominate the military, government, police and any other organization with power or influence.
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