N.Korean Security Turns to Sexual Abuse, Seduction

Robert Park Robert Park

North Korean security agents specialize in torture techniques using needles, water and electric shocks, but recently, sexual abuse is said to have become the preferred interrogation tool.

Robert Park, a missionary released by Pyongyang last month after crossing the border on Christmas Eve, was severely beaten and sexually abused during his detention, according to his close associates. Park, 28, who was released after 43 days in detention has received psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

He was severely beaten by North Korean border guards just after crossing over the border. After being transferred to Pyongyang, Park was then tortured by security agents. The sexual abuse was probably intended to break his will and exact a fabricated apology.

When this reporter was imprisoned at the Yodok concentration camp between 1977 and 1987, a prison official was caught involved in an intimate relationship with a female inmate. He was stripped of his title and relieved of his duty. At the time such relationships were deemed morally unacceptable since the inmates were the most detested segment of the communist country's society. But since 2000 the situation has changed dramatically at Yodok and other concentration camps, as well as the interrogation rooms of the state security apparatus.

Rape and sexual torture of female political prisoners are no longer banned. One North Korean defector who was imprisoned at a concentration camp, said, "Since 2000, it has become routine for security agents to sexually abuse female prisoners." The defector added, "Now, moral standards have been tossed out of the window as rumors spread that Kim Jong-il himself enjoys all kinds of decadent acts with his coterie of female entertainers." As a result, officials now turn a blind eye to abuses lower down the chain of command.

One North Korean defector was arrested by Chinese agents in 1999 while hiding in China and sent back to Sinuiju via Dandong along with a group of women who had also fled. In Sinuiju, the defectors suffered horrific sexual abuse. "Security agents in Sinuiju stripped the female defectors naked regardless of their age and sexually tortured them, while agents did things to them that are hard to describe in words," the defector said. Such acts are being committed at concentration camps in Sinuiju, Onsong, Musan, Hoeryong, Yangangdo and Hyesan along the border with China.

The state security apparatus monitors citizens for signs of dissent, but the departments responsible for conducting espionage operations against South Korea train many female agents to be sent to major hotels in Pyongyang and China to use their seductive techniques to gather intelligence. As South Korea began its Sunshine Policy of rapprochement with North Korea during the Kim Dae-jung administration, the North is believed to have put a large number of female "guides" or agents trained by the Unification Front of the Workers' Party to work.

One defector who used to be involved in intelligence operations said five categories of entertainers for the North Korean leader are selected from across the country. The top-rated women are sent to Kim's vacation home, while the second and third-rated ones are sent to various locations for training in intelligence-gathering skills using seduction. These agents usually work as masseuses or dancers who use sex as a tool to entrap foreign businessmen or missionaries. They are also used in operations to kidnap or recruit foreigners, he said.

By Kang Chol-hwan

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 16, 2010 12:04 KST