China: Thousands of North Korean women forced into prostitution: report

A UK-based organization has documented widespread violence against women in North Korea, claiming that thousands of the communist country's women are being subjected to forced marriage and prostitution in China.

A report published by the Korea Future Initiative, a London-based NGO, reveals that thousands of North Korean women and girls are being subjected to forced marriage and prostitution in China.

The report, which was presented in the UK Parliament on Monday, forensically details the vulnerability of women and girls as young as 12, who are being tricked into escaping North Korea only to be sold as sex slaves in China.

The reportSex Slaves: The Prostitution, Cybersex and Forced Marriage of North Korean Women and Girls in China – claims that an increasing demand for prostitution in China is fueling the exploitation of North Korean women and girls. It says that trafficking gangs are running a multi-million dollar illegal sex industry in China.

Read more: Rights group: North Korean women face rampant sexual abuse

Trafficking networks

According to the Korea Future Initiative, its findings are based on "longterm engagement with victims living in China and exiled survivors in South Korea."

The NGO called for concrete measures to dismantle China's sex trade and confront a North Korean regime that "abhors women."

"Pushed from their homeland by a patriarchal regime that survives through the imposition of tyranny, poverty, and oppression, North Korean women and girls are passed through the hands of traffickers, brokers, and criminal organizations before being pulled into China's sex trade, where they are exploited and used by men until their bodies are depleted," the report said.

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Experts say that North Korean women are especially vulnerable to human traffickers as they are desperate to flee the country. Brokers involved in human trafficking know that their victims cannot turn to the Chinese police for help, analysts and activists say.

China's illegal trafficking has made headlines in the past few months, with Pakistani police arresting a number of Chinese nationals for marrying Pakistani girls and then forcing them into prostitution in China . Authorities in Beijing have vowed to take strict actions against trafficking networks operating in the South Asian country.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

On the road

The reporters from AP covered over 2,150 kilometers (1,336 miles), in a country of barely 25,000 kilometers of roads, merely 724 of those paved. They came back with only their photos as evidence of the life in the northern part of the secluded country. In the picture: A woman walks along a road southeast of Pyongyang in North Korea's North Hwanghae province.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Cooking by the fire

A North Korean man sits by a cooking fire he built to roast potatoes and chicken in the town of Samjiyon, in Ryanggang province. Possibly more than any other populated place on earth, North Korea is terra incognita, but the AP team was granted access to see North Korea and travel through places that, they were told, no foreign journalist and few foreigners had been allowed to see before.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

The revolution mountain

A boulder lies on a path near the peak of Mount Paektu in North Korea's Ryanggang province. North Koreans venerate Mount Paektu for its natural beauty, but more importantly because it is considered the home of the North Korean revolution. They also consider the mountain sacred as the place of their ancestral origin.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Leaving the capital

Farmers walk in a rainstorm with their cattle near the town of Hyesan, North Korea in Ryanggang province. "To get out of Pyongyang, we weaved our way around buses, streetcars, the black sedans of party officials and fleets of colorful new taxis that have over the past few years become commonplace," says Eric Talmadge, one of the jourmalists who participated in the journey.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Outside of Pyongyang

Young North Korean schoolchildren help to fix pot holes in a rural road in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. The country's best road is the 200-kilometer stretch of highway connecting the capital to the east coast port city of Wonsan. Beyond Wonsan, potholes, cracks or sudden patches of dirt road make travel a bumpy experience.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Once productive - now eerily quiet

North Korean residents walk on along a river in the town of Kimchaek, in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. The once-productive cities along its east coast, like the coal mining town of Kilju and the nearby city of Kimchaek - built around a sprawling but now eerily quiet ironworks complex - have become a rust belt, gritty and relentlessly gray.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Well hidden poverty

The remains of lunch left on a restaurant table in the city of Wonsan, North Korea. The government "minders" accompanied the journalists throughout the entire trip. Like foreign tourists, the AP team only saw a bare trace of the deprivation residents experience. Most of the country's citizens cannot afford proper housing, let alone a visit to a restaurant.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

It's the little things

The journalists' itineary was dictated by North Korea's terms. There would be no stopping to interview random people. "It's quite possible none of them had ever seen an American before," said AP's Eric Talmadge, "but our presence went unacknowledged. No glances were exchanged. No words were spoken." Here boys are playing soccer in the town of Hyesan, in the northern Ryanggang province.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Local food, local beer

North Korean men share a picnic lunch and North Korean-brewed and bottled Taedonggang beer along the road in North Korea's North Hwanghae province. This year, according to United Nations experts, the country could come closer to feeding itself than it has in decades. But hunger remains a serious problem, with a third of North Korean children stunted in growth due to poor nutrition.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Providing food is a constant struggle

A farmer carries a fully grown cabbage after harvesting it from the main crop which will be harvested early November, on the outskirts of Pyongyang. About four-fifths of North Korea's land is too rugged to farm. Providing enough food to feed the nation is a struggle for North Korea, which suffered a near cataclysmic famine in the 1990s.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

No detour allowed

A man works on his car as others sit next to the Wonsan Sea in North Korea. For the most part, AP's reporters were not allowed to detour from their pre-approved route, which, to no one's surprise, did not include nuclear facilities or prison camps.

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Never really free

A group of young North Koreans enjoys a picnic on the beach in Wonsan. "Even on the loneliest of lonely highways, we would never be without a 'minder,' whose job was to monitor and supervise our activities," Talmadge explains. "We were not to take photographs of any checkpoints or military installations."

North Korea in pictures: a rare glimpse into the isolated country

Without words

North Korean people rest next to the railroad tracks in a town in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. "Though we would not get to know the people along the way, the country itself had a great deal to say. And it was opening up before us," Talmadge said upon his return. "We had been granted unprecedented access."

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