Published: Thu, November 01, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Kim Jong-un silences North Korea's 'rape epidemic'

Kim Jong-un silences North Korea's 'rape epidemic'

The 86-page report, released on Wednesday (Thursday NZ time), offers the latest glimpse into a range of suspected human rights violations carried out by authorities in the North Korean state, including public executions and arbitrary detentions of suspected activists and dissidents. Police officers conduct searches in female traders' belongings, which can be a prelude to a body search.

Most of the assaults described in the report, entitled You Cry at Night but Don't Know Why, were of women who were being detained by the security services, or who were travelling across the country as traders, an increasingly common female occupation in North Korea's gradually liberalising economy.

"North Korean women would probably say "MeToo" if they thought there was any way to obtain justice, but their voices are silenced in Kim Jong-un's dictatorship."

Researchers for Human Rights Watch interviewed 54 North Koreans for this report.

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More than half the interviewees left the country after 2011.

Even in the military, officials "demand sexual favors", she says. In railway carriages, women face harassment by male government officials and railroad officers. "We were at the mercy of men".

Yoon Mi Hwa, a former trader from North Hamgyong province who escaped North Korea in 2014, described to Human Rights Watch how a guard at a holding centre in 2009 would pick a woman to be raped each night.

She clarified that "men in power" extends to almost anyone within the system, from soldiers to guards to party officials.

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One woman who was caught attempting to flee North Korea suffered abuse at the hands of a police official who was questioning her at a pre-trial detention facility, says the BBC. "You find it in nearly every part of life", Daly said.

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. The country's abysmal human rights status, however, has been largely ignored. Roth asserted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could end the problem "tomorrow" and not affect his grasp on power, yet "would make an enormous difference for the lives of North Korean women".

While Pyongyang has laws criminalising rape, trafficking and having sexual relations with subordinates, the report noted that the North Korean government barely acknowledges the existence of rape in the country.

"Pervasive" social stigma meant many victims never discuss abuse, the group said.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said at a news conference last week that he was "very concerned" about the absence of a human rights agenda in key statements after Kim's separate summit meetings with President Jae-in Moon of South Korea and US President Donald Trump.

Women who talked to the AP said they did not even know what exactly sexual abuse was when they were in North Korea. No one in North Korea is in a position to object to anything asked or demanded by a government official.

"The [Pyongyang] Joint Declaration of September contains numbers of agreements on inter-Korean exchanges and easing military tensions".

South Korea's foreign ministry said Seoul would work with the worldwide community to make practical improvements for human rights in North Korea, and that by pursuing peace and warmer inter-Korean relationships, a positive improvement on human rights in North Korea can be achieved.

"We are not right now concerned with a loss of combat capability", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters after the meeting with his South Korean counterpart.

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