Women defectors from North Korea fall victim to domestic violence

Domestic violence among North Korean defector couples is much more serious than that among South Korean couples, according to the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, Tuesday.

The frequent violence in marriages is because of the patriarchal custom back in North Korea where domestic violence is connived, it said.

The ministry’s research based on 302 defectors from the North — 102 men and 200 women — showed that 85.2 percent of defector families experienced some sort of violence between husbands and wives over the last 12 months.

Most of the couples are comprised of both a North Korean defector wife and husband, while the rest are made of a defector wife and a South Korean husband, or vice versa. In most cases, violent acts were carried out by men on women.

The percentage of domestic violence was much higher than the 53.8 percent for average South Korean couples.

When multiple replies were allowed, 51.3 percent of the defectors said they had suffered physical violence, and 75.5 percent suffered from emotional violence, meaning verbal abuse, threats of physical violence or destruction of the spouse’s property.

It showed 43.8 percent had endured “economic violence” — not giving living costs to a spouse or disposing property without the partner’s consent; 33.6 percent suffered from sexual abuse; and 59.5 percent suffered from negligence.

“Compared with average couples, every type of domestic violence took place more frequently between North Korean defector couples. The frequency of physical violence between those couples was three times higher than the average,” Kim Kwang-yun, the ministry official, said.

“The frequent violence stems from North Korea’s patriarchal custom. The society accepts violence especially towards women,” he said.

At the resettlement center of Hanawon, defectors receive education on South Korean etiquette, but Hanawon instructors say it is not easy to change North Korean men’s macho character, according to Kim.

“Those from the North, especially women, learn about the wrongfulness of domestic violence after coming here. But only about half of them are aware of the law preventing domestic violence and other ways to help them. We’ll try to boost the awareness and propose Hanawon educate the women more on domestic violence,” Kim said.


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