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Surviving Human Trafficking in China

MANCHESTER – China’s human-rights abuses against its own people are no secret. But its abuse of North Korean women who flee to China to escape human-rights violations at home has remained largely hidden. I, however, know the truth, because I am one of those women.

Since North Korea’s great famine in the 1990s, human trafficking of North Koreans, especially women, into China has become big business. Women who had watched family members starve to death began to cross the border through brokers, in order to earn money to provide for their children. But these women rarely find the opportunities they seek; instead, they find only more misery, sold as wives to Chinese men.

There is plenty of demand for North Korean wives in China. As rapid industrialization has driven rural Chinese women to cities or even out of the country, the men who are left behind have found it increasingly difficult to find women to marry. So many are happy to pay the brokers for wives from North Korea.

If the trafficked women do not want to get married, the brokers threaten to report them to the authorities, who will send them back to North Korea. And, ominously, they say that they cannot promise to protect the women’s families. Though such extortion, the women are compelled to marry men they do not even know.