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Lee Jeong-Ae

2007 (Narrative date)

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is a source country for men, women and children who are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Government oppression in the DPRK prompts many North Koreans to flee the  country in ways that make them vulnerable to human trafficking in destination countries. Many of the estimated 10 000 North Korean women and girls who have migrated illegally to China to flee abuse and human rights violation are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Some lure, drug, detain or kidnap North Korean women on their arrival, others offer jobs but subsequently force the women into prostitution, domestic service, or forced marriage. If found, Chinese authorities often repatriate victims back to the DPRK where they are subjected to harsh punishment including forced labour in labour camps or death.

Lee Jeong-Ae, was trafficked to China and forced to marry a Chinese man. She now works as a karaoke hostess in Harbin


For fear we might run away, they lock us up inside the house all day long, so we sometimes cannot see the outside world for many days in a row.

If life were better in North Korea, we’d go back. However, if we went back we’d be killed. For us, there is no way out.

Everybody had told me I could make good and easy money working in a karaoke bar, but the reality was quite different, I quickly came to realize that working there would have been more difficult than living with my husband. The women working there had to do exactly what they were asked to do, or else risk being beaten unconscious and I decided not to put up with that and left after a couple of days.


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