Ms. Kang was one of the few who could eat regular meals in North Korea, since she was in the army. But what is a “meal”? One defector explained,
“all North Korean women must serve in the military for six years, and all men must serve for 11. During that time, she said she was fed three spoonfuls of rice at mealtimes.”
Whatever spoonful of rice she ate did not compensate Ms. Kang for the brutality in the army against its women. Stories have emerged about females in the NK army:
Ms. Kang was born in mid 70s in Hyorung, Hamkyongbookdo. After her schooling, she was forced to serve in army as a female gunner in Gangwon province. For fifteen years she lived in a mental and emotional prison of army existence. She watched the systematic destruction and ruin of women around her.
“Officers in charge of uniform and ration distribution would often leverage their position to coerce sex from female soldiers. Higher-ranked officers sleeping around is quite common…” another rape story goes like this: “The Major General then proceeded to beat [a female soldier] while she loudly screamed, so he covered her mouth. She said he hit her so hard in the left ear, that blood came out of her right ear. She said the beating was so severe her teeth were loose afterwards. . . "How do you think this is going to make me look?" the Major General asked her after the beating. He then instructs her to get dressed and tell no one what happened or he would "make [her] life a living hell."
These accounts represent tens of thousands of untold stories of rape, assault, and terror against the women of the North Korean army. Ms. Kang never felt protected from the possibility of this happening to her; and she does not share how many times she herself was assaulted.
Ms. Kang was discharged after 15 years of her duty. Like most female soldiers, she was a shell of a person, emotionally traumatized beyond description. What would it feel like to go home? How would it feel, to see family again?
What could Ms. Kang do, now? She sold her military uniform, and ate a warm meal. Her hatred for the regime, her pain over her years of mental and emotional slavery in the military, and her loss of family who had been so loyal to the Kim regime, was too much for her. She didn’t want to be a burden to her other family members, and so she crossed the Tuman River in mid-2000s.
She was sold to a Han Chinese man, and the years of humiliation and pain in China began. For example, when there was a family gathering in holidays, she was always talked about in very insulting way. The family easily talked about killing her without being charged. In this sad situation, she became pregnant (against her own will, of course). Her child (she did not reveal the gender) was also beaten.
Ms. Kang found a way to escape, and then found NAUH. We want Ms. Kang to hear kind voices, sleep safely at night, and discover what life is like without being treated worse than an animal. We want Ms. Kang to discover that she can sit in peace, with more than a spoonful of rice for a meal; we want Ms. Kang to know what it can be like to face a day without threats of rape and murder. This is possible because of donations from readers like you.