North Korea on Friday made a rare revelation about the number of its women presumed to be repatriated after escaping from the country, claiming that it has not handed down any punishment on them.
Between 2005 and 2016, a total of 6,473 North Korean women "returned" to the North after traveling abroad without valid travel permits, North Korea said in a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
The North apparently points to North Korean female defectors who were arrested and repatriated to the country after fleeing.
The report was submitted to the UN committee ahead of a country review session slated for early November.
The North said that a majority of those women were found to illegally cross the border with China as they suffered from economic difficulties or were lured by human trafficking groups.
"Therefore, they were not subjected to any legal punishment, and are now enjoying stabilized life thanks to the all-embracing, benevolent politics of the state," the report said.
It said that 33 women were sentenced to punishment for grave crimes, such as drug trafficking and attempted murder, while staying abroad without valid travel permits in the cited period.
North Korea's claim is not seen as true as Pyongyang is notorious for its widespread human rights violations. The North does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps tight control over outside information.
The report said that a legal fund was set up and a bank opened under the Korean Bar Association to offer financial support to women who had been trafficked abroad or filed suits against alleged abductors before courts in foreign countries.
The move may indicate that North Korea seeks to crack down on activities of brokers who help North Koreans escape the repressive regime.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to have ordered tightened surveillance of his people since he assumed power in late 2011.
Since the second half of 2015, North Korea is known to have bolstered border control and set up high-tension wires around the Tumen River, which flows between the North and China, to curb North Koreans' defections. (Yonhap)