The harrowing testimony of an escaped North Korean reveals the torment women face in Kim Jong Un’s army – including sexual abuse, abortions without anaesthesia and starvation rations.

Jennifer Kim was a former soldier who claimed that women fighters were also forced to wear soggy footwraps for sanitary pads. She said they had also been subject to harsh and unusual collective punishments.

The punishment included dipping your hands in frozen water and then hanging from an iron rod. This froze the palms of the fingers, which caused the flesh to rip when you were released.

She estimated that 70% of women in North Korea’s army had been victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment – including herself.

Jennifer stated that she knew exactly what was going to happen when, aged 23, a political advisor ordered Jennifer into his office.

The former soldier, who gave her name as Jennifer Kim, demonstrates a punishment where women were forced to dip their hands in freezing water before being made to hang on a cold iron bar. Their hands stick to the bar so that when they take them away their skin is ripped off

Jennifer Kim (ex-soldier) demonstrates the punishment in which women are forced to soak their hands in frozen water and then hang from a cold iron rod. The bars stick to their hands so they can’t take them off.

Kim Jong Un is surrounded by female soldiers (file photo)

Kim Jong Un surround by female soldiers (file photograph)

She stated that if she refused to accept his request, he would not allow me to join the Workers Party of Korea. If I don’t return to society and can’t join the party, it will make me a trouble child who I will stigmatize for my whole life.

The result is that you are unlikely to be hired for a high-paying job, and will have trouble getting married. Which career path could you choose?

“In the end I was sexually assaulted”

Jennifer lived on only three or four tablespoonfuls corn per day. She was severely malnourished and her periods came once in every four to six weeks. But this did not stop her from having a baby. 

She said that she felt an unusual change in her body after a few days. “So, I informed the political advisor about my current physical condition. He told me to go to the military medical clinic at 10:15 tonight a few days later.

I went to the military medical center as if he had told me…a military surgeon was still waiting for my arrival. He did an abortion without any anaesthesia.

Jennifer is unable to adequately describe her pain. She continued to mutter, “It still haunts” after a short pause. “Because I have had that experience, it has made me mentally ill and prevented me from having children.

“So, even now it’s hard for me to have good marriage. The guilt I feel back then is still with me today and will always haunt my heart.

In an interview, she shared the details of her experience with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. In addition, she shared her story about how four sanitary pad were used during her military service.

She and her companions received gauze instead, which is used to treat wounds. It had to be washed, and then reused.

The former soldier revealed her ordeal in an interview with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

The interview was conducted by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, HRNK.

The woman said her period only came once every six months because she was so malnourished, fed on a diet of just a few spoonfuls of corn each day

Because she had only a handful of corn every day, her periods were rarer than once in six months.

She said that she took used gauze from senior discharged officers at times. They used footwraps instead, which the soldiers would wear in their socks, when even that was not possible.

“The stiff and thick fabric made it difficult to move, which led to chafing and irritated skin. This in turn caused further swelling. The pain I felt every time I took a step was too intense to not cry. 

The footwraps were washed, reused, and dried in unheated barsracks. They had to also be worn wet. Even if one of them was wrong, the entire group would face grotesque punishments. 

Jennifer who lives now in the USA said that she still feels the pain from her skin peeling as she unfastened the iron bars. “I still feel it from the thought of it,” she stated. And hunger was not far away.

Jennifer stated, “I counted all the corn grains while I was eating so it would last longer.”

In order to survive, many turned to the crime of stealing.

On one occasion, Jennifer and a comrade – both too hungry to sleep – stole from a cornfield, holding up the guards by wielding several ears of corn in the dark as if they were a rifle.

She said, “On the return trip, we stopped at a roadside and ate fresh corn. Although there are many delicious food options available, nothing is as tasty as the fresh corn that I ate back then. It was one of my favorite meals and the most sweet.

Military service has been mandatory for all North Korean women since 2015, with each woman expected to serve from the time she graduates school until she is 23 years old (a file photo of women on parade in Pyongyang)

All North Korean women must serve in the military since 2015. (A file photo of North Korean women paraded in Pyongyang)

Greg Scarlatoiu is the executive director at HRNK. He stated that women were treated badly and pushed to the very top of North Korean society. According to Scarlatoiu, the executive director of HRNK, “North Korea’s female soldiers face constant abuse, induced malnutrition and cruel punishments, as well as sexual harassment, assault, and sexual harassment.”

Their tragic story exemplifies the criminal track of a regime that was established over 73 decades ago in order to foster a just and fair society.

This regime cares only about its own survival. To ensure its survival, it exploits North Koreans.

“The abuses that nation’s young girls suffer from the hand of their henchmen by the regime’s leaders reflects the inexorable and deeply embedded corruption and perversion of both the party’s top leadership as well as the whole chain of command.

Since 2015, all North Korean women are required to participate in military service. Each woman is expected to do so from her graduation school through the age of 23.