North Korean Human Rights Victims Share Stories of Forced Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 18, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

North Korean Human Rights Victims Share Stories of Forced Abortions

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by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
March 18, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — Women and men who have fled North Korea are telling a chilling story of cases of forced abortion and infanticide there.

During emotional testimony in Seoul, a woman named Kim Chun Ae described the horrors of life in a North Korean prison. She said authorities there “forced a woman who was eight months pregnant to have an abortion just because the father of the baby was Chinese.”

Kim, who now lives in South Korea, made her remarks at a recent conference held in Seoul on North Korean human rights.

She also said that a number of girls are sold to traffickers as sex slaves. It’s a situation that could leave young women especially vulnerable to abortion.

"I remember crying when I thought of a 12-year-old girl who was sold to traffickers. Children at her age need care and protection from their parents. But they are sold to traffickers and forced to live as sex slaves. Girls aged 17 to 19 were sold in one place, to be resold to other places by traffickers," Kim said.

The Citizens Coalition for North Korean Human Rights maintains the threat of being returned to punishment or death gives human traffickers power over female migrants.

Kim added that many children are separated from their parents–so many, in fact, that they are referred to as kotchebi or flower swallows.

"In the market, flower swallows would steal money and food from passersby, and weaker and younger children would pick up food from the ground. I saw a five-year-old girl with her blind father. The man said he became blind from malnutrition, and came to sell the daughter to a person who can feed her better before she becomes blind too … A soldier took her … the little girl never cried or said anything. But … I can never forget the expression in her eyes."

In testimony after testimony, survivors of North Korea’s atrocities gave heartbreaking testimony about the callousness with which children are treated in their homeland.

Recalling his teenage years in a North Korean orphanage, 23-year-old Kim Hyuk said, "In just three months, 23 out of 76 children died. People got diseases easily because of malnutrition. I was 13 years old and able to pick pockets or beg to feed myself. But most of the children aged seven to 10 couldn’t feed themselves, and even when they could, they couldn’t swallow and digest the food because their stomach was shrunken, and they died."

Only 6,000 North Koreans have successfully resettled in the South, many of them in the past three years. As a result of the atrocities, a number of defectors say South Korea should make humanitarian aid and commerce with North Korea contingent on improvements in the human rights situation there.

A recent U.S. State Department report on conditions in North Korea stated, “The [government of North Korea’s] human rights record remained extremely poor, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses."

The Bush Administration report added, “Defectors have reported that government officials prohibit live births in prison."

North Korea officials also torture women from China who are fleeing that Asian nation to escape its coercive one-child policy that has resulted in similar forced abortions, forced sterilizations and imprisonment.

Related web sites:

State Department Report on North Korea –