In Brief

Rape ‘part of ordinary life’ in North Korea

Report by Human Rights Watch details harrowing accounts of sexual abuse

North Korean women are routinely the targets of sexual violence, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, released today.

Government officials, prison guards, interrogators, police, prosecutors and soldiers operate with near-total impunity, to the point where “unwanted sexual contact and violence is so common in North Korea it has come to be accepted as part of ordinary life”, says the report.

It adds: “When a guard or police officer ‘picks’ a woman, she has no choice but to comply with any demands he makes, whether for sex, money, or other favours.”

The report is based on interviews with 54 people who have fled the oppressive regime since 2011, the year Kim Jong-un came into power.

One woman who was caught attempting to flee North Korea suffered abuse at the hands of a police official who was questioning her at a pre-trial detention facility, says the BBC.

“My life was in his hands, so I did everything he wanted. How could I do anything else?” said the woman, identified in the report as Park Young-hee.

Human Rights Watch says the 98-page report took two years to compile, with witness statements and first-hand accounts of sexual abuse and violence gathered from people all across Asia who had managed to escape from North Korea.

It is not the first time North Korea has been accused of widespread human rights abuses – in 2014, the United Nations released a report condemning the rogue state for the “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”.

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