Most North Korean women are exposed to brutal violence and sexual abuse in their home and workplace but they have no legal recourse in the reclusive country, according to Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.
The civic group released a report on violence against women in North Korea Thursday titled “The battered wheel of the revolution,” which was organized by the Dutch and British embassies in Seoul.
“Long-lasting ideologies that perpetuate cultural practices that are violent toward women at all levels including domestic ones are not private matters but are social and national matters,” the report said. “Governmental and nongovernmental organizations, which could play an important role in eradicating violence against women, are lacking in North Korea.”
Twenty North Korean women and five men who defected between 2000 and 2009 were interviewed at length as part of the report.
All of those interviewed said that reporting domestic violence to police in North Korea is pointless, even “preposterous.”
In the report, Kang Min-cheol, 35, who escaped from North Korea in 2007, said, “If a wife reports to the police because they get beaten up by their husband, police officers would blame the woman for the violence, saying ‘Your husband probably beat you up because you deserved it.’ If women report to the police, they would be laughed at by the police.”
The report also indicated that it is common for male workers to inappropriately touch female co-workers’ bodies, and those in high positions in the workplace are usually male, enabling them to continue abusing and discriminating against female workers. If male workers are reported for abusing female co-workers, companies punish them only by having them write a self-criticism letter.
North Korean women who try to escape are subjected to even more abuse. “North Korean women who escape to China while trying to get to South Korea are also often exposed to violence en route because many brokers take advantage of their vulnerability,” the report said. “The women have no choice but to endure the violence because of the more life-threatening fate that repatriation entails.”