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Please refresh the page and retry. Jeong-Ah Kim and Hyeona Ji glance at one another, as they consider whether they would like to one day return to North Korea. The pair share a traumatic past: they both fled their home nation, only to be sold by sex traffickers in China.
Kim nods in agreement. Estimates suggest there could be between , and , North Korean defectors in China, many of whom are women who have been sex trafficked and are living in hiding. Over the next decade, Ji was twice sold into forced marriages by the human traffickers who had helped her escape, and was three times caught by Chinese authorities who repatriated her.
Traffickers will usually calculate how many single men there are in a Chinese town and provide a corresponding number of women. If she was caught or later repatriated, she would be executed. Her in-laws were kind and insisted on looking after her daughter, now 18, so she left her behind.
W omen sold into forced marriages are forced to sleep with their husbands, made to do manual labour, and monitored whenever they leave the house. When he discovered she was pregnant with a child conceived when she had still been in North Korea, he agreed to raise it as his own. On one occasion, that almost happened. Soon after she arrived in China, she was arrested and detained by local authorities.
I n , rumours started to swirl that Kim Jong Il was planning a visit to China. Had she not escaped then, Kim is certain she would have been executed in North Korea. Ji can attest to the horrific conditions for those who are repatriated; she is one of survivors of the notorious Jeungsan Re-education Centre in South Pyongyang, where some 2, women who had escaped to China were brutally treated.