Female soldiers are often repeatedly raped by commanding officers and stop menstruating due to malnutrition and stress, according to Fox News.
Defector Lee So Yeon spent 10 years in the North Korean army, and said while she was never raped herself, many others were.
“The company commander would stay in his room at the unit after hours and rape the female soldiers under his command. This would happen over and over without an end.”
Lee said that while she enjoyed her time in the North Korean military, stress and malnutrition wreaked havoc on female soldiers’ bodies.
“After six months to a year of service, we wouldn’t menstruate anymore because of malnutrition and the stressful environment,” she said. “The female soldiers were saying that they are glad that they are not having periods. They were saying that they were glad because the situation is so bad if they were having periods too that would have been worse.”
Lee said female soldiers were forced to reuse sanitary pads. Juliette Morillot, author of “North Korea in 100 Question,” also told the BBC women still used “traditional white cotton pads” that had to be washed when men weren’t around. Morillot, who visited North Korea and spoke to female soldiers, said women missed their period for years while in the army.
“One of the girls I spoke with, who was 20, told me she trained so much that she had skipped her periods for two years,” Morillot said.
Lee has recalled being engulfed in the odor from her own sweat because her army bunk was made of rice hull.
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“As a woman, one of the toughest things is that we can’t shower properly,” she said, adding there wasn’t hot water and frogs and snakes ran through the shower hose.
Lee, who is 41 years old, joined the military by her own free will.
Under Kim Jong Un’s regime, however, 18-year-old women are required to enlist and serve for at least seven years.