North Korean 'Brides' in China

These extracts come from interviews conducted over three years with North Korean women in northeast China by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
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Ms. Baek, Heilongjiang province, born in 1974:

We crossed the Tumen river and, and after walking all night, arrived in Yanji. As soon as I arrived in Yanji, I was turned over to an ethnic Korean man in his 40s. I shouted at the couple who had convinced me to go, accusing them of lying and selling me off ... After one week, I was taken to Heilongjiang province by train. My current husband’s sister came to pick me up. It was then that I learned that my husband had paid 3,000 yuan for me.

Ms. Lee, Heilongjiang province, born in 1962:

One day in January 2002, a Korean-Chinese man came and stayed with us for 20 days. When he heard I was selling clothes, he said I could make a lot of money if I went to China and sold clothes there. Without telling my husband and my son, I decided to follow him to the train station in Onsong to leave for China. As we were standing near the railroad, he gave me something to eat and some water. These must have been drugged, because after I had them, I lost consciousness. When I awoke, I found myself in a house on the Chinese side of the border.

Ms. Lee, Heilongjiang province, born in 1971:

I was deceived by a North Korean woman who later turned out to be a trafficker. She told me she would find a decent job in China for me. We crossed the border together and she took me to a house near the Tumen River. After staying in the city of Tumen in Yanbian for one week, I was sold to a Han Chinese man in Qitaihe in Heilongjiang province for the price of 1,000 yuan.

Ms. Han, Heilongjiang province, born in 1966:

My son and daughter died when they were 13 and nine years old, respectively, which made me despair of my whole life in North Korea. One day, a North Korean man in our village approached me and asked me if I wanted to go to China to find a new life. I agreed and followed him. There were two other women when we crossed the border. Later I found out that the man was a trafficker ... They were going to sell us to Chinese men in Heilongjiang province as brides.

Ms. Lee, Heilongjiang province, born in 1973:

My parents died of starvation and my two younger brothers were killed by robbers in North Korea. After I lost all my family members, I was left wandering in the countryside all by myself. One day, I met a North Korean couple who looked a little bit younger than me. In November 1999, they suggested I go to China with them. As soon as we arrived in Helong and went into the house where they took me, I was taken to Longjing and then to Yanji by the ethnic Koreans. From Yanji I was taken to Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang province by train. When we arrived in Mudanjiang, the brother of my current father-in-law was waiting for us. I was then taken to Jidong in Heilongjiang where I live with an ethnic Korean man. I have been told that my current husband paid 10,000 yuan for me.

Ms. Lee, Heilongjiang province, born in 1962:

After I was sold to Chinese men several times, I was finally introduced to an ethnic Korean man with whom I have been living since 2003. He was 45 years old and had a 19-year-old daughter from his previous wife. As soon as we began to live together, the man asked me to have a sterilization operation, saying it would be too embarrassing for him if I became pregnant because he was an old man. I had the operation at the hospital in the city. I have since had another operation due to an infection in that part of my body. I learned only after the operation that there are many other ways to avoid pregnancy. I wish I had not had the operation because I am still suffering from the consequences.

Ms. Seok, Jilin province, born in 1980:

After I ran away from the house of one Han Chinese man who often beat me, I was introduced to another Han Chinese man to live with in 2000. After moving in with the second man, I realized that I was pregnant from the previous one. When my current husband and his family members found out, they asked me to get an abortion. Even though I was already eight months pregnant, I was made to go through an operation at the hospital. I even saw the dead face of my baby when it was taken out of my womb.

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