Prostitution in Hyesan, North Korea

Snug up against the small but still bustling Chinese city of Changbai (Jilin province), Hyesan lies along the Yalu River, spreading from West to East as the closest urban gateway to sacred Mount Paektu.  According to the country’s Meteorological Administration, Hyesan is the coldest big city in the DPRK.  Cross border-trade is an important part of what goes on in the city, yet, Hyesan is, in some ways more than other cities in North Korea, attempting to guard the image and the history of its own revolution.

It is therefore in some ways alarming to learn that a prostitution ring implicates hotels in Hyesan catering to Workers’ Party officials.  Although the English version of the linked article does not pursue it, here are given a powerful image of corrupt North Korean government officials currying favor with Chinese businessmen by introducing them to prostitutes, some of whom are described as “older than 10″ in the original Chinese version of the story.

In a subsequent post, I’ll be analyzing this problem further and revealing several tidbits that the English language version of the article ignores, obfuscates, or sensationalizes.  I’ll leave you with one minor example: the North Korean government actually sent Health Department workers to various areas in and around Hyesan to investigate further instances of organized prostitution.  However, the Daily NK translation — perhaps reflecting a need to further demonize a country that is already doing a swell job itself of being hated — leaves out any mention of the Health Department workers, focusing instead on those nasty Public Security agents who are also apparently trying to root out this very, very pernicious form of corruption which itself is related to the food crisis.  These women, by the way, are called “survival prostitutes.”

For some reason, although their report was supposed to deal with cross-border sex trafficking, the CurrentTV reporters didn’t bother going to Changbai, which is the place to learn about Hyesan.  What a pity!

Hyesan, seen from a faux-marble faux-Tang dynasty style pleasure boat on land in the Chinese city of Changbai (photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Hyesan, seen from a faux-marble faux-Tang dynasty style pleasure boat on land in the Chinese city of Changbai (photo courtesy Wikimedia)