(Photo) Dressed-up junior high school girls. The influence of foreign fashions is evident in this photo. Photographed in October 2013 in Hyesan City, Ranggang Province (ASIAPRESS).

◆ "The situation is more serious than I imagined."

In North Korea, the prostitution of underage and junior high school girls is spreading in urban areas, and the authorities have begun to crack down on it through youth organizations. Our reporting partner in North Korea investigated this situation by meeting with an association for schoolgirls (Kang Ji-won).

"The Youth League was instructed to intensify its crackdown on the sex trade of high school girls and other youths and to eradicate it once and for all. Once arrested, they will be sent to a juvenile reformatory. I was surprised to hear from neighbours and schoolgirls that it was more serious than I had imagined."

A woman from North Hamkyung Province in the north part of the country told this to ASIAPRESS at the end of October.

The Youth League is a mass organization under the Workers' Party of Korea that organizes Socialist Patriotic Youth League students from upper secondary schools and universities to working youths up to 30.

The domestic economy has been paralyzed by the Kim Jong-un regime's extreme measures against coronavirus, such as closing the border with China. As a result, everyone's cash income has been drastically reduced. This reporting partner knew that more and more women were turning to prostitution due to poverty and that a crackdown had been intensified. However, she didn't know that the prostitution of underage girls was becoming so severe that the Youth League was taking measures.

◆North Korea's version of "aid dating.'

To investigate the actual situation, our reporting partner began to conduct interviews. The following is their report.

“I knew a girl who was struggling to make ends meet, so I interviewed her. Her name is Jungmin, and she is 17 years old and a student at an upper-middle school. She told me that several girls around her sell their bodies daily to earn money. Some of them were receiving help from specific rich people."

"When I asked them how much money they received, they told me that they are usually paid between 50 and 150 RMB, and sometimes 200 yuan if everything goes well. For the younger girls, the rich and the officials probably pay a lot."
※10 yuan is about 1.06 USD

There are no love hotels in North Korea, and enforcement is strict. So how do they know where to go and how to keep it secret? Our reporting partner explains as follows.
“Since there are eyes of the law enforcement on them, men often take the girls home with them. High school girls are still very naive and will often follow them home for money. Women who sell their bodies professionally will have a backup to protect them in case of a crackdown. Still, most girls will just have one friend standing guard outside. Prostitution is heavily policed as an 'unsocialist' activity, so these days, girls introduce their clients to each other."

◆The reason for the increase in prostitution is not only the deterioration of life conditions

Even schoolgirls are turning to prostitution because of the severe poverty among ordinary people under the coronavirus situation. Our reporting partner recognizes this but focuses on the changing attitudes of the younger generation as well.

“Of course, everyone is struggling to make ends meet, and that is the main reason why prostitution is on the rise. Sometimes parents force their underage daughters into prostitution by telling them to 'go out and earn their own money.' But I think there is a big change in awareness. Some high school girls are making more money than adults by selling their bodies. This is probably because they are at an age when they have so many things they want to buy…I think their perspective on sex and ethics has changed remarkably."

※ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.