Report: Sexual Violence in North Korea

To mark International Women’s Day, the Korea Future Initiative has released a new report, Us Too: Sexual Violence Against North Korean Women and Girls. Fiona Bruce MP provided a Foreword for the report, which is reproduced below.

Download the full report here:

“This far-reaching report of sexual violence against North Korean women and girls maps a landscape of cruelty and brutality that should be read by all who seek a better future on the Korean peninsula. Far from being an information black hole, the report highlights multiple forms of sexual violence that have and are taking place across North Korea.

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Us Too: Sexual Violence Against North Korean Women & Girls. James Burt, Korea Future Initiative, 2018.

It establishes that the Government of North Korea remains inherently hostile to women and that its institutions shelter perpetrators who commit sexual violence. Laws protecting women and girls are insufficient, poorly enforced, and easily circumnavigated by men with power. And the intersection of propaganda and physical power that masquerades as a ‘unique’ ideology has done nothing to undermine enduring patriarchal social norms and gendered dangers. In the words of the author, North Korea truly is a “misogynistic state”.

The voices of victims and survivors of sexual violence fill this report. Their testimonies, and those of many North Korean exiles, have too often been dismissed as unrepresentative or biased — a reaction that will be unsurprising to those who have followed the #MeToo and #BelieveWomen movements. Women who speak out against their abusers are routinely met with cynicism and dismissal by apologists or those who give cover to predators. This cannot be the case when it comes to North Korea.

The information shared by survivors in this report should appal and upset us. For the sake of our common humanity, we cannot afford to ignore gendered crimes against women and girls. To do so would be an abrogation of our duty as compassionate, free, and responsible human beings. North Korea’s horrors should not suffer distance or time. Nor should they be far from our thoughts. Terrible atrocities are happening now – as I write this, and even as you read this.

What must we do to aid North Koreans? It would surely be a suspension of reason to assume that we can convince the Organisation and Guidance Department — an entity that has overseen the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents, kept millions in hunger and poverty, and confined hundreds of thousands to prison camps — to negotiate away its survival. Instead, we must continue to document and publicise human rights violations. We must continue to rescue vulnerable North Koreans. We should begin to quietly support a meaningful opposition in North Korea and train exiles in leadership roles so that they may one day take ownership of their country. And we must build support for change in North Korea among international partners.

Sexual violence degrades its victims, harms its survivors, and damages the communities it inhabits. Let us never forget that millions of North Korean women and girls continue to suffer.”

Fiona Bruce MP is Co-Chair of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and a serving Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom.