North Korea has been detaining an increasing number of women in the past few years for crossing the border into China in search of food and opportunities to work for their families’ survival, according to a human rights report on the country’s gulag-style penal system issued Friday.
Authorities have been forcibly repatriating the women and jailing them in a network of political gulags, or kwan-li-so (labor camps) and kyo-hwa-so (political prisoner camps), according to the report issued by the nonprofit Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK). Once repatriated, women are subject to extreme privation and repression while in detention, the report said.
The report, titled “Hidden Gulag IV: Gender Repression & Hidden Disappearances,” is the fourth in a series of reports on arbitrary detentions and forced labor in North Korea issued by HRNK since 2003.
It cites the post-2007 expansion of the women’s section at labor camp No. 12 in Jongo-ri, North Hamgyong province, in the northernmost part of the country, to hold a large number of forcibly repatriated women from the province. Inside labor camp No. 12, young women detainees were forced to work as wig and eyelash makers, while older women performed heavy labor such as agricultural production, animal husbandry, tree felling and log cutting. Former prisoners said the facility housed more than 1,000 people.
Women who have been forcibly repatriated have been subject to systematic torture and beatings during interrogations, severe food deprivation, and naked strip searches and compulsory exercises to dislodge money or valuables hidden in inside their bodies, the report said. Those who were pregnant when they were repatriated have been forced to undergo abortions if authorities thought they were carrying babies fathered by Chinese men, it said.
North Korea has between 80,000 and 120,000 prisoners detained in political prison camps, or about one of every 200 citizens, according to a report issued in February 2014 by a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea, which documented the network of such prisons and the atrocities that occur inside them.
[Radio Free Asia]