North Korea intensifies prostitution crackdown

Prostitution in North Korea
Image: Daily NK

Prostitution has been on the rise in tandem with increasing economic difficulties in North Korea. The government is now taking wider steps to crackdown on this under-the-table industry, a Daily NK source reported on September 3.

“Some women in financial difficulty are turning to prostitution and setting up massage parlor-like spaces in their own homes,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told the Daily NK.

“Women without other viable means of making money are earning a living this way. Other women have seen the improvement in their lives and are increasingly turning to prostitution,” the source added.

Women are getting together in groups of at least four to build their prostitution businesses in private homes. Typically, one of the women stays at home while the rest head out to railway stations, markets, and truck stops to approach potential male customers and market their services.

They tell potential customers that they have “good food prepared at home” for them, or that they “should stay at our place, it’s nice,” the source said.

In general, these prostitution “marketers” will cap the bidding for their services at 100 Chinese yuan, but then demand an additional 200 yuan once their customers arrive at the homes.

“Bringing all of these outsiders into homes for sex can lead their neighbors or the local inminban (neighbor unit) leader to complain, but the women just hand out cigarettes or food to quiet them,” another North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK. “The prostitution takes place in private homes, not motels, so there are cases where groups of people protest about what is taking place near their own homes.”

Concerned about the recent rise in prostitution, North Korean officials have moved to find ways to stem the tide. “The Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) has ordered its officers to identify houses where prostitution is taking place and conduct arrests,” the source said.

The Daily NK has previously reported that prostitution takes place frequently around saunas, but the behavior also takes place in restaurants. Restaurant owners put aside rooms for prostitutes to entertain customers who visit the restaurant, the source added.

“Restaurant owners operating under state-provided licenses are committing anti-Socialist acts by making money through prostitution,” the source said.

MPS officers are tracking down operators of prostitution rings, many of whom are already known to the authorities, to better understand how these businesses are being run. Officers are conducting raids targeting the makeshift brothels and have even organized night-time patrols composed of factory workers.

The North Korean government is also encouraging ordinary North Koreans to alert the authorities to cases where inminban leaders are involved in prostitution-related activity.

“The authorities are saying that it’s unacceptable for government officials to be involved in such activity,” the source said. “Most of the MPS officers, though, are men. The crackdowns won’t have much of an effect because the attitude of many of them is that prostitution isn’t a serious problem.”

Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to