'They consider us toys': North Korean women join #MeToo movement

Leroy Wright
November 3, 2018

Oh Jung Hee, a former market trader from Ryanggang province, told the watchdog: "On the days they felt like it, market guards or police officials could ask me to follow them to an empty room outside the market, or some other place they'd pick".

Another woman, a former farmer in her 40s who was caught fleeing North Korea, also detailed abuse she faced from a police official who was questioning her in a pre-trial detention facility.

"The plan is to organize friendly competitions marking meaningful anniversaries between the South and North, for example the first anniversaries of the [April] inter-Korean summit and the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics", said South Korean vice sports minister Roh Tae-kang, according to a pool report. "Every night, a guard would open the cell".

"I was ashamed and scared", one woman who said she was raped told HRW investigators.

Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth said in some instances officials demanded sexual favours from women in lieu of bribes.

HRW noted that North Korea "on paper ... says that it is committed to gender equality and women and girl's rights" and has officially criminalized rape of women, trafficking in persons, and other forms of sexual abuse.

Last July, the North Korean government told the UN's Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that only nine people in all of North Korea were convicted of rape in 2008, seven in 2011, and five in 2015. "We were at the mercy of men".

"After this report, North Korea can't say sexual violence doesn't exist, so they have to either change their tune or fix the problem", said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch.

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"While North Korean officials seem to think such ridiculously low numbers show the country to be a violence-free paradise, the numbers are a powerful indictment of their utter failure to address sexual violence in the country", the report said. "If the agreements are well carried out, it will contribute to not only the improvement of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement on the Korean peninsula, but also the improvement of human rights of North Korean people", the message said.

"Sometimes", she said of the psychological torment from such abuse, "out of nowhere, you cry at night and don't know why".

South Korea's spy agency has observed preparations by North Korea for global inspections at several of its nuclear and missile test sites, the Yonhap news agency said on Wednesday, citing a South Korean lawmaker. I was not even upset. "Women in custody have little choice should they attempt to refuse or complain afterward, and risk sexual violence, longer periods in detention, beatings, forced labor or increased scrutiny while conducting market activities".

'North Korean women would probably say "Me Too" if they thought there was any way to obtain justice, but their voices are silenced in Kim Jong Un's dictatorship, ' he added.

"Click, click, click was the most terrible sound I ever heard", she said.

The North Korean delegation to the United Nations in Geneva issued a statement to Reuters in response to the report, "strongly rejecting" the allegations as "trite" and "fictitious". The country's abysmal human rights status, however, has been largely ignored.

That's according to a report released by the US -based Human Rights Watch on Thursday.

Fewer than 10 perpetrators have been convicted of rape in North Korea in recent years, according to data submitted to a United Nations committee by the Pyongyang government in July 2017.

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