Changchun, China — Following the exposure of an organized prostitution ring in Hyesan, Yangang Province, it has come out that the provincial Party anti-Socialist inspection group has been looking into activities at hotels and on residential streets near the Hyesan Youth Station.
A Yangang Province source relayed on the 25th, “When the ‘Hyemyung Inn prostitution incident’ blew up on the 20th of last month, the inn superintendant, the manager in charge of the rooms and the cashier were all detained by the provincial prosecution authorities. As a result, a wave of inspections has now descended on residential areas near the Wiyeon Rail Inn, the Station Inn and the Hyesan Hotel, as well as near the Hyesan Youth Station.”
At the Hyemyung Inn, located in Hyemyung-dong, the superintendant, Mr. Lee, and the manager Mr. Baek allegedly ran a prostitution ring from 2005, despite the fact that it is a state-operated residential facility frequently used by Central Party officials. They charged 10,000 to 15,000 North Korean won per room for officials, and 4,000 won per room to average customers.
According to the source, prostitution at the Hyemyung Inn took place behind the disguise of flower sales. The superintendant and the manager connected male customers to various “flowers” according to their demands. What has been causing the most shock is the apparent coercion of girls as young as middle-school graduates into working at the inns.
The women selling flowers were classified into those selling “red flowers” (girls in their late teens~early 20s), “blue flowers” (unmarried women over 25), “yellow flowers” (married women) and “purple flowers” (widows). The superintendant was provided with the women through another supplier. These prostitutes divided payments for their services with the suppliers at a 40:60 or 50:50 ratio.
The source explained, “The most expensive ‘red flower’ costs around 20,000 won for two hours and 40,000 won for the entire night. It was even revealed that the supplier has good connections in China, so some of his women crossed the border and went as far as Changbai in China to work.”
Friction between the Inn superintendant and the kitchen manager apparently exposed the incident. The latter, out of malice for the former, who had dismissed him, reported the truth to the Provincial Prosecutor Office.
The provincial committee of the Party, acknowledging the gravity of the situation, organized the provincial prosecutor’s office and provincial National Security Agency officials into an inspection group to investigate facilities across Yangkang Province. Furthermore, the provincial People’s Safety Agency and the Hyesan municipal PSA carried out “residence inspection” in the vicinity of Hyesan Youth Station and Hyesan Market to try and flush out any hidden prostitution activities.
As a result, it was revealed that “Hyesan Hotel” and “Station Inn” had also been regularly engaging in prostitution activities.
The Station Inn is an 11-floor accommodation facility located in Hyejang-dong near the Hyesan Youth Station. It is nominally a facility for rail passengers passing through the Youth Station, but rather than purely catering to customers, the number of males looking for sex is apparently greater.
Hyesan Hotel, since it is used mostly by foreigners, is a place which can only be accessed by Party officials from Pyongyang. The Hotel is particularly popular as a place for Chinese visiting North Korea on business.
The fact that organized commercial sexual activity has been taking place in North Korea’s border regions has been well-known among the citizens since the 1990s. When shortages of food, electricity and heating during the “March of Tribulation” period made the operation of such facilities more difficult, a portion of the rooms were rented out to women wanting to engage in prostitution themselves, or to suppliers of women.
According to another source in Hyesan, the superintendant and manager of Hyemyung Inn have been arguing that the crime was inevitable in running their business, while persons related to the Hyesan Hotel have also begged for leniency, claiming that they had no choice but to engage in foreign-currency earning activities to generate the necessary funds for re-modeling.
The source also explained, “Since the 150-Day Battle began, the number of women selling their bodies has progressively increased.” As households are being mobilized for farm labor and construction projects, and the markets are opening at past 4pm, the income of households in the cities has dramatically decreased, resulting in greater numbers of women engaging in sex trafficking as a means of survival.
The North Korean authorities, at a lecture called “Let us remove all abuse of power and graft by strictly observing the Party line,” which took place on August 8th, attempted to educate the civilians by urging people to come forward with specific instances of prostitution.
However, whether or not the North Korean authorities can really intercept sex trafficking through such political education and harsh inspections is hard to say.