North Korean police and other officials prey on women with near-total impunity, a rights group said Thursday, in a rare report on sex abuse in the isolated nation.
US-based Human Rights Watch drew on interviews with more than 50 North Korean escapees to chronicle gruesome details of rape and other abuses perpetrated by security officers such as border guards, but also civilian officials.
The nuclear-armed North, which is accused of widespread rights abuses by the United Nations and other critics, is a deeply hierarchical and patriarchal society where traditional values of deference to authority still hold sway.
But the vast majority of both defectors and market traders in the North are female. Many women have more freedom of movement than men as they are not assigned a state job from which their absence will be noticed.
North Korean women caught fleeing the country to China or who are repatriated from its neighbour face severe punishment including torture, imprisonment and sexual abuse, the report said.
“Every night some woman would be forced to leave with a guard and be raped,” said one abuse victim in her 30s who was once held at a border detention centre.
“Every night a prison guard would open the cell. I stood still quietly, acting like I didn’t notice, hoping it wouldn’t be me,” she said.