Rape and repeated sexual abuse of female North Korean refugees is extremely common. Many defectors have testified it was common for military men to rape women in North Korea and then shame them for being sexually assaulted. Many were forced to abort children conceived through these rapes.
This echos the tale of Park Yeonmi, a refugee who has traveled the world to create awareness and alarm regarding the situation in North Korea. A Chinese soldier raped Park’s mother in front of her; her mother had sacrificed herself to prevent her young child from having to endure the rape herself.
Another woman, Song Kyong-ok, lost her mother, whom the local government chose to execute when the girl was ten-years-old. She had been caught praying, which UPI describes as “an act of treason.” During her time as an orphan in North Korea, Song “was forced into the streets to beg for food, finding it in the unlikeliest of places–such as unpicked fecal matter containing edible kernels of corn.”
The allure of escaping the yoke of Kim Jong-un is enough to attract thousands to try to escape, triggering increased vigilance on the part of the North Korean government.
China has also pressured North Korea to keep its people from using China as a bridge to South Korea. Many who defect from North Korea have experienced severe trauma, and some have raised the ire of the Chinese government.