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North Korean women sold into 'slavery' in China

Like the thousands of women who fled North Korea before her, Kim Eun-sun made it into China and paid a woman to help her, only to discover she'd traded one form of captivity for another.

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North Korean women cross the road on a rainy day in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, April 25.

Ng Han Guan/AP

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The price for a North Korean woman named Kim Eun-sun, her mother, and her sister to escape to China was 2,000 Chinese yuan, slightly more than $300.

Like thousands of North Korean women before them, they crossed the Tumen River into China and met a woman who said she would help them escape – only to discover that they’d been sold to a Chinese farmer who wanted a wife.

“A lot of women come to China not knowing what they are getting into,” says Ms. Kim, who escaped the farmer with her family but was caught by Chinese police and then sent back to North Korea. “Women are secretly sold in China.”

After fleeing from North Korea to China a second time, Kim, her mother, and her sister eventually made it to Mongolia moving mostly on foot across the Gobi Desert. Mongolian soldiers found them and delivered them to the South Korean Embassy in Ulan Bator whence they were flown to Seoul.

Now a senior in college here, she has received a US government grant that gives her eight months of English-language training and another semester of study in psychology at a US university. Wherever she goes, she conveys the message of the suffering inflicted on North Korean women, generally estimated by officials and activists to make up at least 70 percent of the defectors who cross into China.

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