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.
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,” 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.”