- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2013

Prostitution, drug abuse and human trafficking are on the rise in North Korea, driven by a worsening economy and “a weakening regime,” a South Korean newspaper reported Monday.

The Chosun Ilbo, citing unnamed intelligence officials, said these crimes are becoming more common, especially in parts of North Korea close to the Chinese border. The paper said the regime in Pyongyang “blames the negative influence of capitalism and is cracking down hard on offenders.”

Prostitution rings first emerged in North Korea in the mid-2000s, centered on military barracks and railway stations, the paper reported.

But now, growing numbers of young women including university students are turning to prostitution “to earn a living or make money to buy cosmetics, mobile phones or cover their wedding costs.”

There is growing cross-border trade in prostitutes, with women being trafficked or even selling themselves to Chinese pimps, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

Sexual promiscuity in general also is on the rise in the isolated, communist state, the paper said, citing testimony from a North Korean defector who had been a senior official in the North’s ruling Workers Party.

The former Pyongyang official said that recent statistics from the physical exams for the military draft of 16-year-olds in Chongjin showed that fewer than 40 percent of the girls were virgins.

“The whole of North Korean society is being affected by illegal drugs,” another defector told the paper. “Some wealthy people use them to lose their weight and other people take them to treat colds and fatigue. They are considered wonder cures in North Korea.”