North Korea Does Not Have a Sex Problem?

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

North Korea does not have a sex problem = North Korea, until 1980s, was not open about sex. A conservative aspect remained in their consciousness and under the socialist setup that emphasized rules, the problem of sex was not an important topic in everyday life. But recently, with exposure to much information from the outside world, a freer atmosphere regarding the issue of sex has been forming. However, North Korean women cannot be free in the midst of sex-related violence.

Ahn Mi Ran said women who go around the provinces alone for trade become targets of men’s sex crimes as well.


Kim Young Soon (23)—defected in 2003, withdrew from Pyongyang High-Tech University
Ahn Mi Ran (43) – defected in 2003, born in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung, escaped organ sales
Che Kyung Ja (35)—defected in 1997, born in Hamheung, South Hamkyung, married Korean-Chinese husband
Lee Eun Hee (39)-defected in 2000, born in Shinuiju North Pyongan, worked as a “runner” (broker)
Kang Soon Nhuh (40) – defected in 2002, born in Hyesan Yangkang, escaped organ sales

”One woman I knew worked as a runner from Pyongyang to Hamheung. According to her, women who ride trains experience a lot of incidents. Trains stop often and become delayed, so women frequently stay on the trains until the middle of the night, but there are no electric lights. So men come up to women who are around 50 years old and grope their bodies. When this became chronic, women just accepted this as how things were. When she told her husband, he told her to stop immediately, but there was no way to live if she did not trade, so she still runs. Women who run have to prepare themselves for such incidents.”

Particularly, if these problems become publicly known, it impacts the women’s entrance to the Labor Party. Kang Soon Nyuh explained, “If women become admitted, they can become big leaders, so there are a lot of women who want to enter. If women stay at home, they get entangled with the Union of Democratic Women, which is exhausting. But they do not touch women who are admitted to the party for the most part.”

”But women, upon entrance, have to submit their bodies to the leaders. If women are admitted, it automatically means these women have undergone such incidences. After returning from the Army, they become automatically admitted. This is standard. It has become such a prevalent incidence, that anybody will acknowledge this.”

In North Korea, sex trade is prohibited in principle, but after the severe food shortage in mid-1990s, this practice has seriously spread, centering on stations in big cities. Prostitution can be the utmost survival method that women can select.

Lee Eun Hee said, “If you go to the Pyongyang station, old women will approach men and ask if they will not take up standby lodging. Standby lodging, in one word, means
homestay. Men, if they are interested, will point to a woman standing on the platform and inform, “this one for 10,000 won and that one for 25,000 won. Women are not gathered in one place, but stand scattered between people. The price is based on appearance and age, in that order. If the man selects a woman, they go together.”

She added, “Among these women, vagabonds are included. In the starvation period, there were news that female college students would go out to the streets to sell themselves.”

Additionally, secondary problems resulting from improper teaching of sex education is not insignificant. North Korean teenagers are hardly receiving what can be called, “sex education.” Female students are taught in applied subjects about women’s hygiene, health, and raising a baby, but male-female relationships are not taught.

Kim Young Soon heard a college friend’s petition one day, “Comrade, can you help me get rid of a baby?” In a North Korean college, if the pregnancy is revealed, the student is kicked out of school. But Ms. Kim did not know what to do because she had not yet received such an education.

“Chosun women have not received education even once since their birth. There are no contraceptives and they have not even heard of a condom. I went to the neighborhood clinic and gave the doctor the value of a cigarette and pleaded. Finally, I was referred to an obstetrician at the district’s hospital. But even there, you have to give money under the table to the doctor. Hospitals do not even give food, so we had to bring rice ourselves. After paying 30,000 won, my friend was able to safely undergo the surgery.”

“The doctor said many women receive such surgeries. But some women do not even have money and are ashamed, so they do not go the hospital but damage their bodies while using folk remedies. Chosun women do not have such an education, so they hear from their mothers to drink eggs diluted in vinegar or to fall from a precipice to abort the baby. The doctor said never to try such means, because of the damage to the body. But even at the hospital, you have to give adequate money to receive comfortable treatment.”


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