A recent internal report by security authorities in China’s Liaoning Province found that “most [North Korean] women in China are suffering from symptoms of depression and anxiety” and that there is an urgent need to “stabilize” their mental health, a China-based source told Daily NK earlier today.

The report’s conclusions were drawn from interviews with around 20 defector women and Chinese nationals conducted from late last year, the source said.

The report found that the women’s experience of living in an “oppressive society” since childhood had had serious impact on their mental health. It stated that the women had suffered from various kinds of human rights abuse, including forced participation in weekly criticism sessions and in the country’s “organizational life.”

jilin province workers work
North Korean workers at a clothing factory in China’s Jilin Province. / Image: Daily NK

Organizational life includes events and activities the North Korean government requires all citizens to participate in for ideological purposes.

One of the interviewees in the report complained that North Korea’s whistle blower system – the weekly criticism sessions – made it “impossible for her to trust anyone” and that she suffered from “psychological anxiety” that made it difficult to interact with others normally.

“The Chinese authorities concluded that the negative memories they have [about their time in] North Korean society are causing them to suffer from personality disorders, symptoms of anxiety, and paranoia,” the source said. “They also concluded that this is why many North Korean women show aggressive and violent behaviors even while living in China.”

The report also found that the women are suffering from severe levels of depression due to fears about being forcibly repatriated along with stress they suffered while defecting from North Korea.

The source told Daily NK that during the interviews the defector women complained about anxiety due to feelings of sadness and regret about leaving their families.

A number of the women interviewed also complained about how difficult it was to adapt to a new language and culture while in China. Many of them reportedly claimed they suffered from a “loss of self-esteem” because of the perception they had been “sold [human trafficked] into China.”

Correction: A previous version of this translation stated that the author of this piece was Kim Yoo Jin. The author of this piece is actually Kim Jeong Hun, not Kim Yoo Jin. 

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