A woman in a forced labor brigade, or dolgyokdae, working on a northern section of the Pyongyang-Manpo-Hyesan railway line committed suicide earlier this month after being repeatedly sexually assaulted by her superior, according to source in North Hamgyong Province on Friday.

“She had been working as a member of a dolgyokdae at a new construction site for the northern railway line and a superior in the brigade’s command had repeatedly sexual assaulted her from early August,” the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Daily NK. “She was a virgin, but became pregnant and felt so ashamed that she committed suicide.”

The 22-year-old woman, who was originally from Saebyul County, applied to work in the dolgyokdae three years ago when she was just 19. She had followed in the footsteps of her father, who had worked in dolgyokdae for many years until dying in an accident.

According to the source, she worked as a “battalion accountant” in the brigade. The woman found out she was pregnant in July after having been sexually abused by her immediate superior, a married man who was the brigade’s chief bookkeeper. The source told Daily NK that she felt ashamed when news of her pregnancy broke among members of the brigade.

Just as rumors about how “poor” her conduct had been was making the rounds in the brigade, the woman announced she was going to get rid of the baby and disappeared. Sometime later, her body was found on a mountain in Saebyul County.

Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province. / Image: Clay Gilliland

The local Ministry of Social Security office began an investigation and tracked her whereabouts before her death. They found that she had received an abortion from a 65-year-old retired gynecologist who lived in Saebyul County. Following the procedure, the woman had told the doctor that she was going to return to the dolgyokdae; however, the police concluded that she had gone up a mountain and committed suicide instead.

“An autopsy performed by the Ministry of Social Security’s Investigation Department found that she had poisoned herself with potassium cyanide,” the source said. “The [police] have concluded she committed suicide in desperation and they are now investigating the gynecologist who gave her the abortion.”

The gynecologist recently retired and kept medical equipment related to his profession at his house. He had long been praised by his neighbors for treating diseases afflicting local women; however, the source said he may face punishment in a forced labor camp because the authorities do not allow medical treatments to be performed without official permission.

The perpetrator of the sexual abuse, meanwhile, has tried to hide his own crimes by handing over bribes to the local police and high-ranking members of the dolgyokdae, according to the source.

“The perpetrator of the sexual abuse has been reported to the [local] party committee, but has not received any punishment so far,” the source said. “Only the mother of the dead accountant has been left in a heart-wrenching situation.”

The mother of the deceased woman has reportedly blamed her “stupidity” for allowing her daughter to try and become a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea by working in the dolgyokdae in the footsteps of her father. The source said that her days are spent trapped in regret and tears, leading to sympathy from those around her.

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.