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Case of Ko Hyon-chol and Other Unsavory Tales of Sexual Abuse in South Korea

44 3 3
12.01.2019

Once the story criticizing a report on mass-rape in DPRK was published, its author has faced with a fierce backlash. Many people were unwilling to believe that by “presenting notorious stories not as exceptions but as examples of daily tactics, and by then employing a similar approach, it is possible to put together quite a fascinating report, with a far less dramatic title, but dedicated not to North but South Korea”.

In the text below, we will discuss sexual abuse defectors from DPRK are subjected to on route to “the promised land” and on arrival there. The author became interested in this subject after South Korean authorities demanded that ROK’s citizen Ko Hyon-chol be granted freedom on 15 July 2016. In 2013, the 53-year-old Ko Hyon-chol left North Korea via China (more precisely, he defected once an investigation into his smuggling activities had begun). The next year he arrived in South Korea, and on 27 May 2016, he was apprehended while crossing the border with PRC. Having crossed it in a rubber boat, he was arrested a few hours later in North Korean territory.

During a press conference, which South Korea labelled as stage-managed and used to distract the public from the case of “defected waitresses”, Ko Hyon-chol declared that his crime was unforgivable. But we are more interested in the crux of a crime, committed on orders from the South Korean intelligence services, which Ko Hyon-chol had been collaborating with from December 2015. His mission was to kidnap two orphan girls in exchange for 10,000 US dollars each.

According to Ko Hyon-chol, the girls were meant to be used for propaganda purposes but there are other plausible reasons. The simplest one is that the orphans had relatives who had paid Ko Hyon-chol to take the children out of the country. However, such relations failed to come forward. Hence, we have to consider yet another reason, that the girls were to be kidnapped and used as underage sex slaves. And Ko Hyon-chol happened to be one of typical (so-called) brokers – human traffickers, who the West chooses to portray as “noble smugglers helping DPRK residents defect from a totalitarian hell”.

China’s organized crime groups are engaged in such lucrative activities, and so are South Korean human smuggler organizations, disguised as human rights groups and often granted protections by Protestant sects. For obvious reasons, there is not much information about their activities, which is why the author is forced to rely on dubious sources. Hence, he is obliged to highlight that everything he will discuss further on, without supporting references, is comparable in trustworthiness to, say, notorious statements made by defectors about torture and horrors in DPRK. Only occasionally, do incidents related to these activities come to light, when yet another pastor is arrested in China or North Korea, and human trafficking is included in the list of charges against him.

Brokers have close ties to the military and state officials on both sides of the border and help female defectors cross it in exchange for payment. However, once in China, female defectors discover that they had already been sold, with any luck, into marriage with a Chinese farmer. In 2009, prices for obedient wives were $3,000 for a young woman and $700 for an older lady.

It is not uncommon for a broker to pass on a woman to a local mafia that sells her on their black market to buyers in any part of the nation. Once in the criminal network, most women end up in Chinese brothels where price tags are $25 per girl.

Even if we peruse memoirs of female career defectors, such as Yeonmi Park or Lee Hyeon-seo, few kind words about Chinese brokers are mentioned in them. And if we are to look at selected terrifying tales of other female defectors, half of their horrors are not associated with life in DPRK, which is simply described in terms of........

© New Eastern Outlook