NATIONAL

Female NK soldiers exposed to rape, abuse

By Bak Se-hwan
  • Published : Apr 4, 2016 - 14:56
  • Updated : Apr 4, 2016 - 14:58

Female soldiers in North Korea are subjected to rape and severe human rights violations while authorities turn a blind eye, a North Korean defector revealed.

New Korea Women’s Union representative Lee So-yeon, 41, recently held a conference in Seoul for the event of International Women’s Day and testified to the appalling women’s rights in the North, saying that sexual abuse is endemic and “there is no concept of dignity for women.”

Lee, a former soldier of the North Korean regime, said in the conference that raping low-ranking female soldiers is a frequent occurrence in the North Korean military.

(연합)

“Out of 120 soldiers in my unit, there were only 20 men, but they were all high-ranking officers. I was in the 1st squad, but a couple of squad leaders in the 2nd squad raped every single one of the low-ranking female soldiers,” Lee testified.

Others attending the event also testified to the appalling state of women‘s rights in the North.

Especially due to the dire economic situation, more and more North Korea women are slipping through the Chinese border for work, with also more being caught and facing severe consequences.

Once captured in the North, the women are sent to prison camps, where sexual assault and rape are believed to be widespread. And for those who return pregnant, forced abortions have become state policy.

“The Chinese consider them to be illegal immigrants and repatriate them to North Korea where they are imprisoned for having crossed the border without the permission of the authorities,” David Hawk, author of “The Hidden Gulag” (2012) told the United Press International in 2015.

“That‘s a nonpolitical offense that’s being criminalized. Thousands of women are in penitentiaries for crossing into China,” Hawk said.

One defector, Kim Eun-mi, who worked as a railway attendant, said in the conference, “women crew members often fell victim to sexual assault and rape, which was common in trains carrying soldiers, especially in the evening when lights were turned off.”

Kim also mentioned that she worked under a squalid condition where female crew had to “reuse sanitary pads that were already solidified (with blood).”

Choi Su-hyang, a former nurse in the North Korean Army, left the country for the South in 2014. She pointed out that 30 to 40 percent of the North‘s military personnel are women, who are often raped and assaulted by superior officers.

Adding to the sexual assault, she added, most military soldiers, both males and females, suffer from malnutrition, and are at high risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis and tuberculosis.

The women’s human rights group on that day lashed out at the North Korean regime, saying the abnormal state should stop infringing on women’s rights.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)