North Korean authorities routinely commit sexual violence against women with impunity

Date: 
November, 2018
Country: 
Kuzey Kore

While North Korea remains one of the most repressive societies in the world, life for women there is especially harsh, according to a report released on Thursday by New York-based Human Rights Watch. 

North Korean authorities routinely commit sexual violence against women with impunity, according to the report, which was based on interviews with 54 North Koreans who fled the country and eight former officials.

"Unwanted sexual contact and violence is so common that it has come to be accepted as part of everyday life,” the 86-page report says.

Women interviewed for the report described patterns of sexual abuse and discrimination in virtually every social setting in which they encounter government officials and security forces, from detention centers to checkpoints to the marketplaces that have sprung up around the country.

Almost all are afraid to report the abuses for fear of public humiliation and retribution.

“It is unimaginable how anybody would go to the police generally, even more so to file (a case of rape),” said Kim Sun Young, a female farmer in her fifties who is quoted in the report.

She said her only option was to try to remain beneath the notice of authorities: “Whenever I saw ‘law people’ (authorities), my heart would start bumping fast, my legs would tremble, and I’d try not to move, keep still, and look down hoping to pass unnoticed.” 

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said that President Moon – who is a former human rights lawyer – should know better than to sideline the issue.

“I think (Moon’s) rationalization is: first we’ll deal with denuclearization, then we’ll have economic development, and over time human rights will get better,” Roth said.

“This is Moon just capitulating to Kim Jong Un and proceeding on his terms,” he said. “It's political cowardice. It’s possible to walk and chew gum at the same time, to address the nuclear program and address the human rights problem simultaneously.”

Source: USA Today