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Western vices reportedly on rise in North Korea

October 12, 2011 |  1:44 am

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- Pornography, prostitution and infidelity are becoming more pronounced problems in North Korea, according to recent stories in the Seoul-based press.

An unnamed source on North Korean affairs told newspapers here that the availability of Western videos and literature has led to a rise in criminal cases involving vice offenses in North Korea.

A strongly controlled society, North Korea has claimed that prostitution has been abolished in the country. At a United Nations Human Rights Council session in 2001, North Korea reported that "prostitution has not existed [in the nation] for the past 50 years."

But activists say prostitution in North Korea has been rapidly growing since the country's food crisis in the mid-1990s. Open Radio for North Korea, a Seoul-based radio station that broadcasts to North Korea, reported earlier this year that food shortages and poverty have driven a growing number of North Korean women to prostitution.

"Because the living is so hard, the food or money problem comes before chastity or sexual identity," a North Korean female defector who wished to remain anonymous told Open Radio. "North Korean women's awareness on sex changed not because of sexual equalization but because of poverty."

Critics of the North Korean regime say another growing problem is infidelity. Those engaged in extramarital affairs in the North are dubbed "8.3 couples." The term is taken from Aug. 3, 1984, the date when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il directed citizens to make daily necessities from factory byproducts. But now the term "8.3" has come to stand for fake goods.

Pornography is also reportedly becoming an issue. Last March, a North Korean soldier was arrested and charged with producing a pornographic film featuring North Korean women in their 20s and 30s. The soldier was caught after selling the film to a Chinese merchant.

In 2009, the North Korean government passed a law that called for up to 10 years in prison for those caught possessing, buying or making pornographic materials, but it is not clear how much the penalties have stemmed the practice.

North Korean experts quoted in newspapers here say porn is in the secretive regime to stay.

"The sex commerce will continue to thrive, as North Korean citizens who are exhausted from political suppression and hardships of life see the adult entertainment as a psychological relief," said one former defector who asked not to be named.

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-- Jung-yoon Choi

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