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But many change their minds after they cross the Tumen River into the "safety" of China, smuggled by middlemen who promise safe passage. She was 'recycled'. After five years of imprisonment in labour camps and a man's bedroom she finally made it to South Korea. Related Articles Girls led into life of 'sacred' sex slavery 25 Nov She left behind tens of thousands of women who made the same leap of faith only to end up in China.
South Korean charities say between , and , people have escaped North Korea in the nine years since famine swept Kim Jong-il's impoverished regime, killing two million.
Most are still hiding in northern China, terrified of his infamous camps. Aid workers say between 70 and 90 per cent of women defectors have been sold for sex. A new report by the London-based Anti-Slavery International cited the cases of dozens of women trapped into forced marriages and prostitution by ethnic Korean Chinese "brokers".
A widow and former soldier, Mrs Kim was a shop assistant in Pyongyang, a sign that she was trusted, since only loyal workers are allowed to live in the capital. But that did not save her when the state food distribution system broke down after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the North's main backer.
Survivors talk of going for days without food and of grandparents, grandchildren and sometimes whole families starving to death. It was extremely difficult to survive. Deciding that she must have fled to China to find money or food, she left her son with relatives and took another daughter with her in pursuit.