North Korean women are left 'at the mercy' of male soldiers and officials who are allowed to abuse and rape them with impunity, a new report has found (file)
Women are raped and sexually abused so often in North Korea that 'nobody thinks it's a big deal', a landmark report has found.
Female defectors revealed they were 'left at the mercy' of male soldiers and guards back home, who picked them out while they worked or travelled before forcing them into sex with little chance to refuse.
Afterward, victims reported being thrown out of universities or beaten and abandoned by their husbands for bringing shame.
Meanwhile men are seldom punished as attackers, with police, guards and soliders allowed to act with impunity.
Researchers even found the definition of 'rape' is different in North Korea - with a sexual assault only classed as such if violence is used.
One anonymous former textile trader in her 40s recalled how the men 'considered us [sex] toys'.
'On the days they felt like it, market guards or police officials could ask me to follow them to an empty room outside the market, or some other place they'd pick,' where they forced sexual encounters, she said.
'It happens so often nobody thinks it is a big deal. We don't even realise when we are upset,' she added.
'But we are human, and we feel it,' she said. 'So sometimes, out of nowhere, you cry at night and don't know why.'
The report was put together by researchers from Human Rights Watch who interviewed more than 50 women who escaped Kim Jong-un's brutal regime.
They found that police and other officials prey on women with near-total impunity, in a deeply hierarchical and patriarchal society where traditional values of deference to authority still hold sway.
While the vast majority of police, guards and soldiers are men, the majority of both defectors and market traders in the North are female.
Many women have more freedom of movement than men as they are not assigned a state job from which their absence will be noticed.
Defectors, most of whom are female, told how sexual abuse and rape is used as a weapon by border guards to deter them from escaping (file)
North Korean women caught fleeing the country to China or who are repatriated from its neighbour face severe punishment including torture, imprisonment and