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Cho Sun-Ok

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.

Cho Sun-Ok was trafficked to China after leaving North Korea to escape poverty. She tells of how she lives in fear that she will be found by authorities and returned to North Korea.


I am always worried that the authorities may come and apprehend me. It wouldn’t be a problem if I were the only one to be caught, but I’m worried because I’m not sure if my child could come back alive if we were arrested and sent back to North Korea.

I have no idea what love, or married life is…In North Korea, all I worried about was getting by and finding something to eat, and thus I didn’t know of men or dating, and then I came to this foreign land only to find this unbearable life.


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