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Sexual violence against women widespread in N. Korea, watchdog report says

All Headlines 13:32 November 01, 2018

SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- Sexual assaults and harassment against North Korean women are widely committed by state officials, but there has been little reporting or punishment due to social stigma, fear and a lack of any remedy, according to a report issued Thursday by an international human rights watchdog.

The report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that many North Korean women forced into the so-called Jangmadang markets to earn a living have been exposed to sexual violence at the hands of government officials overseeing the black market.

A cartoon released by Human Rights Watch on Nov. 1, 2018, shows a female merchant offering bribes to a North Korean government official. (Yonhap)

The watchdog said it compiled the report based on interviews with 106 North Koreans (72 women, four girls and 30 men) who resided outside the North from January 2015 to July 2018. Of them, 57 are defectors who fled North Korea after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took power in 2011. The report was disclosed in a news conference held at the Seoul Press Center.

It noted that many North Korean housewives have been forced to start businesses at the Jangmadang markets to support their family since the late 1990s.

These female merchants in North Korea, where gender discrimination and male supremacy are still prevalent, encountered government officials who control and monitor the marketplaces, putting themselves at risk of being sexually assaulted, the report said.

Twenty-one women out of those interviewed by HRW and who had an experience with the Jangmadang markets said that they were raped or sexually harassed by North Korean security officials in several regions.

The victimized female defectors also pointed to ranking party officials, prison guards and interrogators, police and secret police officers, prosecutors and soldiers as being among the perpetrators of sexual abuse.

A 40-year-old woman who defected from North Korea in 2014 was quoted as saying that she was frequently asked by Jangmadang regulators and security guards to come to empty rooms or other places near the market and was raped several times.

The woman told HRW that sexual violence is so common in the North that men do not regard it as wrong and women accept it.

The report added that none of the women interviewed by HRW had attempted to report their suffering of sexual violence to the authorities while living in the North.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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