Female North Korean defectors have an estimated 20,000-30,000 children who were born in China, according to one source. These children are a result of marriages to rural Chinese men, a kind of indentured relationship that is little better than sex slavery, with Chinese men “buying” the women from border traffickers.
“I escaped to China trusting a broker, but ended up being sold for money and had to endure all kinds of abuse as I was dragged from one location to another,” one defector recalls. “Some women who are sold into sexual slavery are stripped naked and locked up so that they cannot escape.”
The children these women have with Chinese men are frequently unable to get legal protection or go to school in China because their mothers are considered illegal immigrants or their fathers refuse to register them as their own.
The problems continue even if these women make it to South Korea with their children. The children are not entitled to the same educational and financial support in South Korea as defectors. A woman surnamed Chung who arrived in South Korea in 2010, said, “I arrived in South Korea with two children I had in China, and they don’t get any assistance, which makes life difficult for us. And a major problem is that they can’t speak much Korean.”
Savvy women lie to South Korean investigators, saying their children were born in the North but only grew up in China, which explains why they do not speak the language. A government source said, “There’s no way to check their place of birth, so we often take their word for it.”
The Education Ministry on Sunday said 1,249 children of North Korean defectors who were born in China went to school in South Korea as of the end of last year, outnumbering the 1,226 students who were born in North Korea.