North Korea

North Korea's sex trade and STD problem

Photo: From Flickr by Roman Harak
James Hyams
Written by James Hyams
A WikiLeaks cable reveals that a hotel in North Korea’s capital city Pyongyang offered a South Korean tourist to have sex with a prostitute.

The classified document dated July 2007 states that a journalist and several other South Koreans had a massage in Yanggakdo International Hotel, the largest working hotel and the second tallest building in North Korea.

“Massages were offered for USD 35 cash,” the cable states. “The next day he had asked for ‘something more’ and was taken to another room for an assignation with a prostitute for USD 100.”

So can foreign pick-up-artists expect to find romance with North Koreans or a prostitute?

Simon Cockerell, director of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, says it is unrealistic for western tourists to find romance with North Koreans as North Korea places great pride in its national homogeneity and is a deeply conservative culture.

He argues that hooking up with a visiting foreigner would be something a bit shameful and also something quite out of character for almost all the women there.

“Flirting is common, developing a crush on someone is universal, but beyond that we would have to disappoint,” Simon wrote on the website of Koryo Tours, which operates specialized tours into North Korea.

“Despite some serious efforts by some of the people on tour I have never once known of this conclusively happening.”

Jeong Yong-soo, a North Korea expert and reporter at the JoongAng Daily, also warns that tourists should not expect to hook up with a North Korean despite allegations of a booming sex trade.

“I used to frequently visit North Korea as a reporter but I don’t recall anyone tourist visiting a prostitute,” he said.

“Young girls are assigned into prostitution as manjokcho to service high-ranking North Korean officials”
North Korea watchers, however, point out that young girls are assigned into prostitution as manjokcho (만족조 – satisfaction teams) to service high-ranking North Korean officials. These girls do not service the mainstream population and are usually married off at 25.

One analyst Martin Sieff, of the Asia Pacific Defense Forum, reports an estimated 25,000 active prostitutes in North Korea but there is no way to confirm this statistic.

A North Korean defector informed Ha Tae-kyung, a lawmaker of the Saenuri Party and publisher specializing in North Korea, that were approximately 500 prostitutes in their city, which has a population of 400,000.

“If [we] depend on the simple arithmetic calculation and put North Korean population as 20 million, we can assume that there should be about 25,000 prostitutes in North Korea,” Ha told Sieff.

Sieff also reports that the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among North Korean troops is devastating, citing North Korean defectors as sources.

This report is confirmed by New Focus International (NFI) which has published statements from North Korean refugees.

“From the start of the Arduous March period, there was a drastic rise in the number of women selling their bodies just to eat,” Han Ji-suk, a refugee who escaped from Hoeryong in 2012, said.

“The Arduous March period finished long ago, but there still are many women engaging in prostitution. There are more who don’t consider

“Opium is supposed to prevent STDs. Opium is not considered illegal in North Korea”
chastity or honor as being worth anything in the face of hunger. This attitude goes hand in hand with the prevalence of STDs in the country. But the women have their own ways to deal with STDs,” she said.

“Opium is supposed to prevent STDs. Opium is not considered illegal in North Korea,” she explains. “It is cheap and typically goes for 5,000 won per gram. Women believe opium prevents and even treats almost all forms of disease.”

“[North Korean prostitutes] lightly mix some water with the opium, and dab a cotton ball in the mixture. Before placing the cotton ball in the vagina, wrap string around it in a cross shape so it can be pulled out more easily,” she explains.

“The next day pull the cotton ball out by tugging the string, and the womb is clean. The cotton is supposed to absorb all foreign substances, preventing them from entering the body through the womb.”

This method has not been very effective.

Since 2002 the Korean People’s Army (KPA) have conducted mandatory STD checks on its soldiers.

Those found to have a venereal disease were refused leave and had restrictions placed on them.

Consequently, soldiers try to conceal they have an STD as there are insufficient treatment options available.

One former KPA soldier Oh Jun-seong explains in an NFI report that they spent an entire month living in the tunnels.

“So many of us suffered from STDs, but no one said anything,” he said.

“The Kim Jong-un regime is keeping quiet about the crisis of sexually transmitted diseases in the North Korean military. He does not ask for outside help because the existence of this kind of crisis among his soldiers is extremely embarrassing,” he adds.

The US Department of Sate indicates in their Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 that North Korea is a source country for women and children who are subjected to sex trafficking.

“Many of the estimated 10,000 North Korean women and girls who have migrated illegally to China to flee from abuse and human rights violations are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, and traffickers reportedly lure, drug, detain, or kidnap some North Korean women upon their arrival,” the report reads.

“These women are subjected to sexual slavery by Chinese or Korean-Chinese men, forced prostitution in brothels or through Internet sex sites, or compelled service as hostesses in nightclubs or karaoke bars.”

Source links:

About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”

  • fuck James Hyams

    fuck you, this photo is taken in Dongguan, China. and South Koreans are not allowed to enter DPRK, you fucking scumbag.

    • Guest

      I did not chose the photo.

    • James

      I did not choose the photo and, in the past, South Koreans could apply to get a visa to go into north korea.

      • pass-by

        since when South Koreans were allowed to visit North Korea? from what i know, visiting North Korea is illegal being a South Korean citizen and violators will be prosecuted under the national security law of South Korea.

        • James

 Supervised tours with South Koreans entering into North Korea were allowed up until 2008. “Park Wang-ja, was shot dead while she was wandering into a controlled military zone at the Mount Kumgang at the DPRK’s east coast.

          South Korea, in response, immediately suspended the tour program, requesting a thorough investigation, which the DPRK rejected.”
          As far as I am aware, it has never been “illegal” just the North Korean dictatorship rejected South Korean applications to visit unless they wanted something, such as coverage by specific journalists or researchers. I was planning to head into North Korea in 2008 with my South Korean wife prior to this shooting. They said she needed to hand over her passport and undergo a full security screening, which took more than a week (although unspecified at that time) just to get clearance to apply for entry. She did not think it was worth the hassle and then the lady was shot and all visa appications were suspended by the ROK.

          • pass-by

            that was Mt Kungang Tour only, no place other than that was allowed by South Korean government.

  • Fake article

    As another commenter already stated, the image is actually from Dongguan, China (a city famous for its sex industry). I understand that North Korea is already a journalistic free for all, but this is incredibly sloppy and dishonest. For someone with so many “credentials”, you should learn how to do your homework better.

    • James

      Follow the source links I’ve provided at the bottom of the article and you will see there is nothing dishonest about the article content. I did not choose the photo for this article.

  • Μηνας Γραικός


  • Cholimma

    Stayed at Yanggakdo. Massage parlor there is Chinese run and girls are Chinese, there to serve Chinese and other foreign Asian business class visitors.

    • James

      Thank you for that information.

  • Tae-hoon Lee

    The photos indeed appear to have taken in China. And the parlor in Yanggako hotel is also run by Chinese. As the caption of the photo points out Korean bloggers mistakenly claim to have been shot in North Korea as you can see from or

    • James

      I requested the photo be changed. Thanks guys.

  • smithington

    You guys don’t have the fortitude to allow comments on your little circle jerk about becoming a google news partner? There are some real gems there like “We aim to engage our readership in evidence based scientific journalism”. Does that include clickbait titles, and copy and pasting things from reddit while doing zero fact checking? I just wonder if you could perhaps expand on what the word “scientific” means to you?

    ” as well as engage in rational-critical discourse after articles wherever applicable and possible.” except after this complete fantasy of an article. Starting right after this..just after we finish towelling off here, then you guys can start discussing.

    “Find the truth, be accurate and impartial, be transparent and
    accountable, always maintain independence, and respect readers, sources,
    peers, society and ourselves.”
    would this include having your contributors insult readers and pass the buck on their poor writing?

    Just about every sentence in that is a knee-slapper. I wonder if you really believe your own BS?

    • Tae-hoon Lee

      Good point, smithington. A comment section has been added for that post.

  • pass-by

    No more misleading articles with fake photos please

  • Brian Moon

    Apparently some White dude has enough time to write shitty articles because he can’t get a job back home or left Walmart for Korea thinking he can be ‘KING’ and ‘WORSHIPPED’ by Korean women. Dude, go jerk off to your nonsense boring fake article. As a fellow American, I think you’re a loser

  • Tyler

    Hey man
    I have been to one of these massage places and had sex of course but the problem is I didn’t use a condom and of cours it was full sex
    Iam really paranoid right now

  • Tyler

    And I was wondering do these women’s have std tests or somthing and are they safe or not is there a chance I get hiv or somthing please answer me fast

Click here not to show this pop-up box again.