North Korean women who have escaped their draconian country have reportedly been forced into detention camps, sex slavery, and forced marriages after crossing the border into what has been called China’s "Red Zone," according to Global Rights Alliance, a human rights law firm.
The Sun reported that there are up to 500,000 women and girls who have fallen victim to China’s "Red Zone," which comprises the provinces of Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang. The sex and bride trafficking industry exploded in these three provinces, and are said to reel in $105 million per year.
Sofia Evangelou, North Korea lead advisor for the human rights firm, said that these North Korean women are desperate to get out of their country, and that they will often "take any opportunity to flee in any way that they can."
"We are appalled to hear that many North Korean women prefer to be sexually exploited rather than remain in North Korea."
She also mentioned that these women are often aware of what dangers lie beyond the North Korean border, but they are still willing to cross over.
"With the knowledge that this might happen, they prefer to be sold to brokers or trafficking rings rather than staying in North Korea."
"Sometimes they willingly accept the help of a broker. Some of them know they might end up being exploited by trafficking rings, but they are so desperate they choose to trust the brokers."
"They are hoping they might end up having a better life."
Evangelou shared with The Telegraph that the situation worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic when these women found themselves trapped within China’s lockdown borders, making them a simple target for sex traffickers.
Evangelou said: "The current situation leaves North Korean women and girls exposed to the start reality of either being sold into a lifetime of sexual and mental abuse, slavery, forced, labor, or reaching freedom."
It is believed that approximately 70 percent of North Koreans who escape the country are women, and the terrifying trek across the border makes them all the more vulnerable. The Telegraph reported that most of these women become sex trafficking victims within a year of crossing the border.
If these women are caught by the Chinese authorities, they risk being deported back to North Korea, where they can face torture or death.
Fox News reported that the US State Department has made known that North Korean refugees and asylum seekers living in China can be exposed to traffickers who often drug, detain, and kidnap the women upon arrival.
The State Department also mentioned that as many as 30,000 children born in China to North Korean women and Chinese men are never reported. The result is that these children become stateless and exposed to even more exploitation.
"A full investigation into the human rights abuses suffered by women in and around North Korea is urgently needed," Evangelou noted.
"If nothing is done to address the urgent human rights situation for North Korean women, the situation will only get worse."