Although some North Korean women who have defected and marry rural Chinese men take the risk of working outside the home, shuttling between cleaning and babysitting jobs or working behind the scenes in restaurants, an increasing number feel they have no choice but to try to make money behind closed doors.
That is where video chatting comes in. About one-fifth of the North Korean women living in hiding in China are involved in this kind of online sex work.
“If you’re working in a restaurant or outside, you run the risk of being asked for your papers by the police. So doing this work is safer and the money is better,” said Park a broker who works to get women out. “In the village where they lived, every North Korean woman does this. It’s so normal to be doing this.”
“These North Korean women in China faced a dire dilemma, either having to remain hidden and submit to this kind of sexual exploitation, or risk working outside of their residence with the very real possibility that Chinese authorities could arrest them at any time and force them back to North Korea,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.
Suh was sold eight years ago to a man in northern China who, she said, treated her well — he beat her “only a few times.” But the arrival of their second child made a tough financial situation untenable. She heard about video chatting through a friend of a friend and began chatting with South Korean men at night when everyone in her house was asleep.
On her first day she earned $3. In her best week, she netted $120. A few months ago, Suh decided she couldn’t take it. “I wondered why I had to do this. I’m a human being, the same as everyone else,” Suh said, breaking down into heaving sobs. “I wanted to be a good mother, a strong mother for my daughters.” Read more