Absent from reporting on the imprisonment and release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, which has taken the disturbing turn of focusing on the power dynamic between the Clintons, is the story the journalists were investigating in the first place. A piece by Ji-Yeon Yuh at the Women’s Media Center discusses this story: human trafficking.
Proportionally, the trafficking of North Korean women into China is a small part of an enormous worldwide criminal enterprise. However, of North Korean women and girl refugees in China, an estimated 80 to 90 percent are victims of trafficking. This is likely the highest percentage of trafficking in a single population.
The available evidence points to a dramatic expansion in the trafficking of North Korean women over the past decade. Based on the aid workers’ estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the female refugees are trafficking victims, there could be as many as 168,000 trafficked North Korean women and girls in China, and thousands cross the border each year.
It is no longer a case of local Chinese gangsters tricking North Korean women already in China and selling them as wives to rural bachelors. It is now a systematic, albeit sprawling industry operating in both North Korea and China that lures North Korean women with promises of jobs and then sells them into commercial sex work or into servitude as personal laborers and sex slaves–”wives”–for men. While once North Korean women were sold primarily in areas bordering North Korea, now there is evidence that they are being sold throughout the area north of Beijing.
The article puts the situation in North Korea in a global context, including broad information on worldwide human trafficking. As Ji-Yeon Yuh points out, the arrest of Laura Ling and Euna Lee speaks to the danger of investigating human trafficking and the need for this important work.
The fact is, the slave trade has not gone away. Two women just went through hell because of this. Millions more people, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and girls, are trapped in this horrific reality. Human trafficking deserves much more of our attention.