The XX Factor

North Korean Women Suffer the Downside of China’s Girl Gap

From the department of small comforts:  The sentencing Monday of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee to 12 years in prison by North Korean authorities is likely to shine a bright light on the situation facing North Korean women who seek refuge in China that was the subject of their documentary project for Current TV.

My colleague Blaine Harden has an excellent and eye-opening piece on the situation in today’s Washington Post , detailing how the much-discussed gender imbalance in China has led to a market for North Korean wives among rural Chinese men.

The women want to escape poverty and starvation in North Korea, and the Chinese men desperately want wives. Such complementary population needs don’t lead to positive outcomes for the women however, because, as Harden reports, the women-and eight out of 10 recent defectors are women, he writes-are often finding their exits through men who turn out to be traffickers, offering them freedom and then selling them off as brides to strange Chinese men once across the border. Or, once across the border on their own, they fall prey to marriage brokers, because as stateless illegals in China, they risk deportation back to North Korea-where they may be sent to forced labor or reeducation camps-should they seek help from Chinese authorities.

“If I had a chance to meet with President Obama, I would first like to tell him how North Korean women are being sold like livestock in China and, second, to know that North Korean labor camps are hell on earth,” one North Korean sold into three different marriages in China before being returned to North Korea told Harden.

The whole disturbing story is worth a read .

Worth pondering, too, in light of the spate of articles about how the gender-imbalance in China is allowing Chinese women to lead more liberated lives and have their pick of suitors.