The U.N. human rights office says North Korean women, who escaped to China and were subsequently forcibly deported to their home country, are subjected to horrific abuse, including imprisonment, torture and sexual violence.
The report is based on eyewitness accounts by 100 North Korean women who managed to escape after being detained in the North from 2009 to 2019. The women recount the appalling abuse to which they were subject by human traffickers who helped them flee to China. They say they were used as cheap bonded labor or sexually exploited. Some were forced into marriage.
The report by the U.N. Human Rights Office said the nightmare continued in other horrific ways after the women’s forcible return to North Korea. It said they often were sent to prison without a trial or any recourse to a legal defense.
Agency spokeswoman Liz Throssell said many of the women were labeled as traitors, systematically punished and subjected to human rights violations.
“Among the testimonies, one woman describes how she tried hard not to reveal details of her life in China, and as a result, she was beaten and kicked so hard that one of her ribs was broken,” Throssell said. “And, she said she still feels the pain today. Another woman said that the beatings were so excruciating that she even attempted suicide.”
Throssell said women recounted being detained in inhumane, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions with little or no access to daylight or fresh air. She said they were kept on a starvation diet, subjected to forced nudity and invasive body searches. She said many were tortured and sexually violated by guards.
“U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet described the women’s stories as heartbreaking,” Throssell said. “These are women who have often been the victims of exploitation and trafficking who should be taken care of, not detained and subjected to further human rights violations.”
High Commissioner Bachelet said the accounts show the systemic nature of human rights violations in North Korea. She said those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable. She added her office will continue to gather evidence to support a process of criminal accountability, whenever and wherever possible.