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North Korean escapees sold into sex slavery -

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North Korean escapees sold into sex slavery

Broadcast: 22/10/2010

Reporter: Mark Willacy

Many women try to escape the insular nation of North Korea, and for those that succeed, the future
is often grim.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Life is tough for most in North Korea. But for some young women, who manage
to escape from the hermit kingdom and slip over the border into China, freedom can be short lived.

Many are sold into marriages by brokers specialising in human trafficking and they're often raped
and beaten by their new Chinese husband.

Some are even sent back to North Korea where they face being thrown into a prison camp, or even

A lucky few have managed to escape to South Korea where their harrowing stories have shocked many.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy spoke to several North Korean women sold into marriage and
filed this report from Seoul.

MARK WILLACY, REPORTER: It's been a long walk to freedom for Kim Hyun-sook. Leaving behind her
husband and young daughter she paid a broker get her out of North Korea and into China, where she
hoped to earn money for her starving family.

What she didn't know was that the broker was a human trafficker and that he'd sold her for $2,000.

Lateline agreed to hide Kim Hyun-sook's identity.

KIM HYUN-SOOK, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (Translation): At first I was grateful I could make money in
China but then I'd learnt I'd been sold to a Chinese man. I almost went crazy. I was so devastated
and ashamed. I wanted to kill myself.

MARK WILLACY: Like thousands of other North Koreans, Kim Hyun-sook fled her homeland when famine
took hold of her village.

80 per cent of those who escape into China are women and the vast majority of them end up being
sold like cattle.

KANG SU-JIN, COALITION FOR NORTH KOREAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS (Translation): The price for North Korean
women in Chinese towns close to the border is several hundred dollars.

Further inland, the price can be more than $2,000. They're mainly sold to farmers, old men or the
disabled. Beatings are common and rape happens to every woman who is sold.

MARK WILLACY: Based in Seoul, Kang Su-jin and her group work to free North Korean women sold into

Those she gets out are given government housing and taught skills like sewing. But for the women
trafficked by unscrupulous brokers, the memory of China can never be erased.

KIM HYUN-SOOK (Translation): Because this Chinese man paid to marry me he demanded sex. At first he
was nice and kind but then he started keeping a close eye on me and if he left the house he would
lock me in a room.

MARK WILLACY: Once sold into often violent marriages, these North Korean women still have to look
over their shoulder, because they're hunted by the Chinese police. And if caught they can expect no

Lateline spoke to Kim Yong-shil, another woman sold into marriage for $600, only to end up in a
Chinese jail.

KIM YONG-SHIL, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (Translation): When I was caught I was put in a cell with 30
other North Korean women, then the Chinese police started the beatings. They also took whatever
money we had. Some women were sexually assaulted. Their treatment of us was as bad as we received
in North Korea.

MARK WILLACY: There have been cases of North Korean women being sold seven or eight times. But they
dare not complain because, if they do, they can be sent back to North Korea and thrown into the
Gulag or even executed.

KANG SU-JIN (Translation): Australia's a long way from North Korea but as fellow human beings I
hope Australians can pray for us and become more interested in the plight of the North Korean

MARK WILLACY: Just over this border, inside the world's most secretive state, is Kim Hyun-sook's
husband and daughter.

Now safe in South Korea, she yearns for a family she hasn't seen in eight years.

KIM HYUN-SOOK (Translation): I hope very much to see them again. I left my home and flesh and blood
in North Korea only because I was starving. I am suffering in great agony because of this.

MARK WILLACY: They may have escaped the horrors of the hermit kingdom but, for thousands of North
Korean women, escaping into China simply means a new life of hell.

Mark Willacy, Lateline.