Many N. Korean defectors resort to prostitution for living in South

November 30, 2015
This undated file photo shows one of S. Korea's "red light districts."

This undated file photo shows one of S. Korea’s “red light districts.”

By Jun Ji-hye

A considerable number of female defectors from North Korea have become sex workers in South Korea after experiencing difficulties adjusting according to media reports.

KBS, a state-run broadcaster, aired a program on Sunday night about the plight of some 40 to 50 female defectors who work at “ticket dabangs,” coffee shops that illegally sell sex, in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. Some of these places are owned by North Korean defectors.

The women are usually in their late-30s to mid-40s. The clients, mostly in their 50s to 70s, are not only residents of Hwaseong, but travel to the town from other regions.

The women spend time with clients in karaoke and go to motel rooms with them as well as delivering coffee, which is the ostensible business activity.

A female defector told the program that each client pays 25,000 won ($22) per hour for singing together in karaoke rooms. Another woman asked for a more than 100,000 won to provide sexual services when a member of the production crew disguised as a client contacted her.

It was already known that ticket dabangs recruiting female North Korean defectors are also prevalent in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.

The women said that they used to work at normal companies or work as waitresses in restaurants after they defected, but their monthly salaries of some 1.3 ($1,120) to 1.7 million won was not enough to maintain their livelihood and support their family members left behind in the North.

“It is much better to earn some 3 to 4 million won here,” a woman told the program. “We work for almost 15 to 16 hours.”

Prostitution is illegal in Korea. But police in Hwaseong said it is hard for them to crack down on prostitution there as it is conducted in secret.

“They just deny it and that is all, unless we catch them in the act,” an officer told the program.

According to the Ministry of Unification, a total of 28,000 people have fled to the South from the repressive state as of late October, and 70 percent of these were female. Of the woman who defected, 80 percent did not hold jobs in the North.

Suh Bo-hyuk, professor of Humanities Korea Research at Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, said most North Korean defectors escaped from the isolated state for financial reasons, and more women resort to working in the sex industry than men.

“Through working at restaurants, for example, it is hard for them to live a life they dreamed of before defecting,” he said. “This has made it difficult for some female defectors to overcome the temptation to work in prostitution.”

Experts said the government should once again think about how to help defectors settle in the South.

One Comment

  1. steven

    December 1, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    Just threaten to send them back to the North and they’ll straighten right up. They were probably prostituting in the North from the start and went back to their old ways. They could get a late education and go forward. Kim Jong Un has 28,000 less citizen to feed or publicly execute so they should be thankful they are at least free to travel. Kim never let the people y travel from one province to the other. If I was a N. Korean defector, I would be trying to figure out how to save my people from Porky Pig

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