According to sources inside North Korea, more women are getting involved in the sex trade industry in regions of North Korea with floating populations, such as North Pyongan Province’s Sinuiju City.
“Women in their twenties can be seen in front of the Kapmun Hotel in Sinuiju, soliciting customers,” said North Pyongan Province-based source in a phone call to Daily NK on August 28. “The women stand near the hotel entrance and ask the passing men, ‘Why not get a massage before you go?’”
“If one goes to the main street or around the station in the downtown area, it’s easy to see 200-300 women working as prostitutes. If they’re able to find a customer, they typically pay about 100 yuan (approximately US $15), of which their personal take will be about 20 yuan ($3),” the source continued.
According to the source, the charge is different depending on the area. In Sinuiju, it costs about 150 yuan to be with a woman in her twenties and 100 yuan for a woman in her thirties. Sometimes the police (Ministry of People’s Security agents) will provide some level of security for a price, but in other cases, the women go out on their own.
Asked about the reason behind the increase in women joining the sex trade, the source noted that it is a side effect of the country’s marketization. “Some women who are unable to participate in the market economy in conventional ways are using prostitution as a way to earn money. It doesn’t require start up capital and is an easy way to earn money compared to other kinds of work.”
The source described one Sinuiju woman’s reason for becoming involved in the sex trade: “Her husband was discharged from military service after becoming disabled. Even if they amputate a leg, they don’t provide any compensation or assistance, so she had no choice but to make a living and support the family by resorting to prostitution.”
When asked about how things have changed over time, a source in South Pyongan Province said, “A while back, there weren’t many prostitutes in Sinuiju, South Pyongan Province’s Pyongsong, or Kangwon Province’s Wonsan. But now the industry is flourishing all over the country, and this has enticed more women to join in.”
She noted seeing women offer ice (meth) to their male clients, stating, “Now that illegal drug usage is spreading in North Korea, the residents have another issue to contend with that makes their lives difficult.”