WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― Despite North Korea’s reported tightening of border security to block the defection of its hunger-stricken people, the communist nation has made no efforts to prevent human trafficking by screening migrants along its porous border with China and Russia, the U.S. said Monday.
In its annual Global Trafficking in Persons report, the State Department ranked North Korea once again in Tier 3 for countries with the poorest record of fighting human trafficking. A total of 23 nations, including 11 new ones, were included in the list.
“Although press reports indicated that border security increased during the reporting period, there was no evidence that the government attempted to prevent human trafficking by screening migrants along the border,” it read. “Nor did the government differentiate between trafficking and illegal migration or defection.”
The department, however, reiterated most of its descriptions in the previous report for the overall trafficking situation in North Korea, a veiled communist nation where media outlets are strictly controlled and information gathering by the outside world is very difficult.
North Korea is a “source country for men, women, and children who are subject to forced labor, forced marriage and sex trafficking,” the report said.
“North Korean women who make their own way to China are lured, drugged, or kidnapped by traffickers upon arrival,” it added.
“Trafficking networks of Korean-Chinese and North Koreans (usually men) operate along the China-North Korean border, reportedly working with Chinese and North Korean border guards to recruit women for marriage or prostitution in China.”
The document also pointed out a problem with North Korean workers in Russia.
“Tens of thousands of North Korean workers are estimated to be employed in logging camps in Russia’s Far East, where they reportedly have only two days of rest per year and face punishments if they fail to meet production targets,” it said.
Since 2003, North Korea has been on the list of the Tier 3 countries that may “be subject to certain sanctions, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian, no-trade-related foreign assistance,” according to the department.
Meanwhile, South Korea was left in Tier 1, among those countries complying with international standards for anti-trafficking efforts.
But the department said South Korea still needs to improve its legal and institutional system.
South Kora is a “source, transit, and destination country for men and women subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor,” the new report said, as it did in 2010.
The South Korean government took adequate steps to prosecute trafficking offenses in the past year, but “its efforts were hampered by the lack of a clear law prohibiting all forms of trafficking,” it said.
Its victim protection efforts were weakened by its lack of formal proactive victim identification procedures across the government, the report added.