Citing statements from over 100 women, a UN human rights report stated on Tuesday that North Korean women who were held in prison camps suffered torture, rape and several other forms of violence at the hands of police and security officials.
Detained between 2009 and 2019 following their failure to flee the country, the women narrated their ordeals to UN investigators in Seoul in interviews after their release. They recounted that they were denied sleep, food, fresh air and daylight while being held in prison camps and detention centers.
Various forms of Traumatic Abuse
Many also said in the report titled 'I Still Feel The Pain' that they were subjected to torture, invasive body searches, rape and forced abortions by authorities there. All these women eventually managed to defect to South Korea.
"I did not sleep and work because I did not want to be beaten. It was excruciating to a level that I even attempted to commit suicide," one woman was quoted as saying. North Korea did not immediately react to the report but it maintains that such criticism of its human rights record is a "plot to overthrow" its regime.
Pressurizing North Korea to Improve Situation
Another woman recalled one of her first nights in detention in 2010 when she was raped by an officer. "He threatened that ... I would be humiliated if I rejected him. He even told me he could help me to be released sooner if I did as he said," she said. Gathering information in isolated North Korea is notoriously difficult, and the report acknowledged the lack of access to the country limited the agency's ability to verify the interviewees' accounts.
Daniel Collinge, a UN human rights officer who co-authored the report, said the project was aimed at putting pressure on Pyongyang to improve the situation, while urging other countries not to deport defectors who risk their lives to achieve freedom and prosperity.
South Korea's Moon Jae-in government, which is trying to improve ties with the North, recently came under criticism after revoking the licenses of defector groups and banning their campaigns to send anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border.
(With inputs from agencies)