Women Victimized Under Extreme Market Regulations

[imText1]The North Korean authorities have further tightened market regulations.

An inside source relayed that “since the introduction of the policy on market regulations, railway police inspections have become more extreme. They carelessly ransack citizens’ bags and even search women’s undergarments.”

The North Korean authorities have strengthened market regulations, such as restricting the types of goods that can be sold in the market and fixing prices.

They have already risen the minimum age of women who can sell in the jangmadang (markets) from 35 to 45 years old. Now, according to the most recent public announcement, women under the age of 49 will be restricted from market activity beginning December 1st.

If women under the minimum age sell in the market or sell prohibited goods, the safety agents in charge or the managers of the jangmadang confiscate the products or charge fines. Furthermore, those that are permitted to do business are only permitted to sell at specific locations in the market.

According to the source, agents are also known to strip search merchants, as some attempt to hide cosmetics, medicine, or precious metals in thick clothing. Since the decree was issued, safety agents have come forward to enforce these aggressive regulations.

The regulations are also affecting traveling agents who make frequent us of the railway system. If young women are carrying a numerous possessions onto trains, the safety agents steal the goods and search their bags without discretion.

North Korean Rail Safety Agents ride in every train car. The basic duties of rail safety agents consist of checking travel certificates and citizen cards as well as investigating suspicious passengers and reports of theft. On top of this, their authority to inspect women who are engaging in long-distance trade has increased.

The rail safety agents take passengers carrying large loads suspected of being goods for sale to the inspection car. The safety agents search their luggage and threaten to report them to the government. After the prohibition of sales by women under 45 took effect, women of this age group were targeted and often threatened with being reported. Long-distance merchants can only claim their goods if they give bribes such as cigarettes or cash to the rail security officers.

The source stated, “The amount needed to bribe rail safety agents has risen sinse the regulations have been in effect. Under this decree, the safety agents have become well-off.”

Also, since the authority granted to rail safety agents has been increased, frequent incidences of sexual harassment and forced sexual encounters involving women engaged in long-distance trade have occurred.

The agents take the women to regulation cars saying, “We have to investigate whether or not you are engaging in gold trade,” where they force them to remove their undergarments under the pretext of investigation and then engage in illicit conduct. If the women protest, their luggage is confiscated or their citizen cards and travel certificates are handed over to the discretion of the local Safety Agency Office at the train station where the women will be forcibly removed from the train.”

The source said, “In North Korea, there are no laws regarding human rights and the average civilians’ awareness of human rights is very low, so recent occurrences may give rise to societal issues.” He also noted, “As a result of the recent market regulation decree, the tyranny of safety agents and Party leaders has grown worse, and indiscriminate human rights violations have become even more conspicuous.”