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Seven days a week, she had to sit at a computer from noon to 5 a. In the apartment, Ms. When they failed, they were slapped, kicked and denied food. Lee said. Each year, human smugglers take thousands of women seeking to flee North Korea, promising them jobs in China, according to human rights groups and trafficking survivors.
But once in China, many of the women are sold to unmarried men in rural towns or to pimps for exploitation in brothels and cybersex dens. If they are caught running away from traffickers, China sends them back to North Korea, where they face torture and incarceration in labor camps. With nowhere to turn for help in China, they remain trapped in sex slavery. An estimated 60 percent of female North Korean refugees in China are trafficked into the sex trade, and increasingly coerced into cybersex, the London-based rights group Korea Future Initiative said in a report in May.
When she was smuggled out of North Korea in spring , Ms. Lee was told she would be waitressing in China. Until then, she had never seen a computer. She was Waiting for them was the Rev. Chun Ki-won, a Christian pastor from South Korea who funded and orchestrated their rescue. Though The New York Times could not independently corroborate some details of their flight, recordings of online conversations between Mr.
Chun and the women made before their escape supported their accounts. Lee and Ms. Barely out of elementary school, they started working. Kim toiled in a jade mine and later joined the unofficial market , selling fruits and South Korean clothes smuggled from China. Lee collected and sold wild herbs. As they grew up, their hometown, Hyesan, and other towns along the narrow river border with China became hunting ground for human traffickers.
In , a relative sold Ms. After changing hands twice between human traffickers, Ms. Lee ended up with a man who held five North Korean women captive in Helong, in northeast China. Kim, too, wanted a way out.