North Korean Women Suffer Sex Assault, Starvation and other 'Unspeakable' Torments in the army: Former Soldier

A former female North Korean soldier noted how she had to undergo an abortion without anesthesia, when she got pregnant after being sexually abused by a political figure.

A former soldier narrated the ordeal the women have to go through in Kim Jong Un's army and revealed the harrowing torture on them, including sexual abuse, abortions without anesthesia, and starvation rations. The escaped soldier, who goes by the name, Jennifer Kim noted that around 70 percent of women in North Korea's army have been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed, including herself. The former soldier revealed her torment in an interview with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Talking about the harsh collective punishments that the women in the army had to face, Jennifer noted that on several occasions the women were made to dip their hands in freezing water, then hang them from an iron bar which froze on to the palms, so the flesh would tear off when released. She also noted that women fighters had to use worn footwraps as sanitary pads. She also recalled that in her four years of military service, she used only four sanitary pads.

Narrating her story of when she was sexually assaulted at the age of 23, Jennifer said that when a political advisor ordered her to his room, she instinctively knew what was going to happen. She said that if she refused his demands, she couldn't become a member of the Workers' Party of Kore. "If I return to society without being able to join the party, I'm perceived as a problem child. That means I won't be able to get a good job and it will be a problem when you try to marry. What could I have chosen?" she said, before adding that she was sexually assaulted by the individual.

Jennifer Kim
Jennifer Kim Screen grab - HRNK via Pen News

Abortion without anesthesia

Jennifer further informed that she survived on three or four spoonfuls of corn a day and was so severely malnourished that she received her periods once every four to six months while serving in the army. After Jennifer discovered a change in her body, which were early signs of pregnancy, she let his abuser know about the same. He asked her to go to the military-medical office a few days later. Jennifer informed that a military surgeon performed an abortion on her without anesthesia.

"Because of that experience, not only do I still struggle mentally, but I'm also not able to have children," she said. Jennifer also added that they didn't have access to sanitary pads so she and her comrades were given gauze [used in dressing the wounds], which had to be washed and reused again. "There were times when I took the used gauze left by discharged senior officers," she said. When even the gauze wasn't available, they resorted to using footwraps, which soldiers wore in their boots in place of socks. Jennifer now lives in the US.


The footwraps also had to be washed and reused but often they would not dry up properly in the damp barracks, so the women had to use damp footwraps in their periods. "The thick and stiff fabric caused chafing, which in turn irritated the skin, and caused more swelling. Every time I took a step the pain was so bitter that I cried," Jennifer said.

Jennifer also added that the punishments were orchestrated in groups even if only one had committed a mistake. With starvation always lingering, Jennifer noted that many resorted to stealing food to survive. Once, she recalled she and a comrade, too hungry to sleep, stole some corns from a field and ate raw corn, sitting by the side of the road.

The executive director of HRNK, Greg Scarlatoiu also corroborated that North Korea's women soldiers are subjected to 'relentless abuse, induced malnutrition, cruel punishment, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.' In North Korea, military service was made mandatory for all North Korean women in 2015. Each woman is expected to serve from the time she graduates from school until she is 23 years old.