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North Korean Women on the Market (2)
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2016-01-20 17:05:08
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North Korean Women on the Market (2)

KIM Min-Hee

I was handed over to a group from Shenyang and the others were handed to those from Shantung. There sometimes happens sexual harassment and rape on women, transported, by the traffickers. Moreover it is said that they threaten their pray even with a knife if there it resists. A 33-year-old woman in our group from Chungjin had thus been victimized and had scars on her face and arms because she resisted then. 

The next way we arrived in Donhwa by bus. A Han Chinese man of about fifty years old welcomed us. After lunch we waited outside a grocery store while the men bought food to take out. Suddenly, a man, and in dark leather clothes, came close and asked us whether we knew what the war was, pointing at it. The car we saw was different from those of security officers we had seen in North Korea. As we was alarmed, we ran to the men who had brought us there. They told us to stay away for a while and come back. We did as we were told but a 26-year-old maiden from Chungjin was arrested. I turned to the other direction and walked off as fast as I could to where I didn’t know. Fortunately, a Chinese old lady took me to a family of ethnic Koreans, and I cried and begged for help. 

With the help of the mother in the family, I was introduced to a 42-year-old bachelor. I was happy just because I could live with a man of a same ethnic background. Women who are deported to Shantung are sold at a higher price but to men who abuse them, verbally and physically, and keep them inside out of fear that they may escape. These women were ‘wives’ in name but ‘slaves’ in reality. In this regard, I thought that I was lucky. I decided my mind to work hard until I could visit my children and my parents back in North Korea. 

It was too early for me to enjoy and my belief on my husband turned into disappointment after one year passed. My husband was such kind of a man who is a gentleman when sober but a beast when drunken. This year after I was beaten on the face, it came to my mind that I can barely put up with that kind of torture given to me in a quite strange land not in my motherland. There seemed to be a shadow to my life in the future. 

I came to Dalian with the help of a kind man who was commensurate with me and helped me to escape from my husband. It was difficult for me to adapt myself to a new environment again. There are some North Korean women in Dalian, but they are in works that one in North Korea could not imagine. 

A young maiden I know was sold to a Han Chinese man. She was raped one day by her husband, the next by her father-in-law and then by her brother-in-law in turns. She ran away and now lives in Shenyang. 

Even so, women are better off than men. The North Korean men in China dig the waste bins for something that could be sold for money. They live on 3 yuan per day on the average. 

I recall a 54-year-old woman from Hoe’ryong in the town adjacent to Donhwa where I was living. She was living with a Chinese man until arrested by the police in December. She crossed the Tumen again after a month in the labor rehabilitation center. She wandered the woods not knowing the way out and in the end slid off a cliff. Three days passed before she could regain consciousness and found herself in a little tent. Apparently it was safe for her to be rescued by two men, coming to cut some firewood, who later took care of her for ten days. I felt really sorry for her when I saw her coming back to her husband with her hands and bodies frozen. 

Despite the difficult life condition China and the severity of repercussion upon repatriation, people would choose to live in China over North Korea. If a pregnant woman is returned to North Korea she is taken to the hospital for abortion, because the father of the baby is probably Chinese. I know many tragic cases of North Koreans in China. All members of one family who would cross the border together are only to be broken up and don’t know the others’ whereabouts until now. A couple went deep inside a small village in the woods, leading their life as someone else’s shepherds. A woman went to live with an invalid Chinese woman as a caretaker for nothing. Women who were lucky or unlucky enough to get married were often beaten up because of their ethnic background and were suffered from bleeding while pregnant. Moreover, women who were caught and sent back to North Korea would face serious punishment. Even in a single day, we’ve never forgotten our motherland. Due to the lack of make-up and beauty care in North Korea, women who once had their hair dye and wore earrings would undergo painful punishment after they came back to North Korea. 

Their heads are pounded against wall and their earrings are wrenched with pliers. The same treatment is given to women who wore eye makeup. Even after having gone through all of this the women would still run away after release from the labor rehabilitation center. 

It is not difficult to guess that the inmates of the prisons in North Korea are starving under conditions far worse than the people outside the prison camps. Those I’ve seen return to China second or third time from those labor rehabilitation centers are hard to recognize; their looks are changed from beating, starving and forced labor. I keep asking myself why North Koreans must cross the river again and again only to live in a hiding place in other’s land. Why should we Koreans who once were brotherhood be parted to different directions; one to prosperity and happiness and the other to hunger and pain. Why can’t we erase that line of division after half a century has gone? 

I would like to make an appeal to the world. For all North Koreans to live happily we must open the doors that are closed, put down the guns that are pointed at each other, and keep on corresponding for reunification. Other countries that were once divided are reunited but why we are not? The older generation who have lived since the birth of the dividing line are one by one passing away with the lingering desire to see their hometown just once before dying. The leader of North Korea should open the door closed to the world. 
The leader of North Korea must rule not by his own personal initiatives but by listening public opinion. The leader of North Korea must govern as the leader of the people not as a selfish individual. He must stop the socialist propaganda, abandon the unrealistic slogan of free education and medical care, and endeavor to govern fairly until the unification of the two Koreas. 

The people of North Korea should not be abandoned in the dark. They should notify the fact that all their compatriots in South Korea are sincerely sympathetic and they also desire the unification as much as North Koreans do. They must be keen to what’s happening in outer world as part of steps to open their eyes and heart to the wider world. 

I make this appeal in the hope that you would consider it as a shared hope of the entire North Korean people, not as that of an individual. 

We are, indeed, united in our wish for reunification.