North Korean Authorities Target Rich Chinese Johns in Prostitution Crackdown

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North Korean hostesses wait for customers at the entrance to a North Korean restaurant in China's border city of Dandong, in a file photo.
North Korean hostesses wait for customers at the entrance to a North Korean restaurant in China's border city of Dandong, in a file photo.

North Korean authorities are focusing on extracting exorbitant fines from Chinese visitors caught buying sex when they visit the country for business, a source told RFA’s Korean service.

“There have been several incidents each month where Chinese businessmen caught on prostitution-related charges are released after paying a huge fine,” said the source, an ethnic-Korean businessman from Yanji, China, who often visits Rason, a North Korean border city popular with Chinese traders and gamblers.

“It’s well known that Chairman Kim Jong Un issued a policy to crack down on prostitution, especially when foreign customers are involved,” the source said. “They are caught a couple times a month, and if they want to get released they have to pay almost $10,000!”

“But this recent crackdown seems a bit odd,” the source said.

“The way the sex trade normally works is that restaurant owners arrange meetings between call girls and Chinese businessmen. But recently it looks like someone on the inside is leaking information to the authorities, because the police seem to know exactly when and where the meetings are supposed to happen,” the source said.

“To crack down on prostitution, the cops have to raid the actual site where it’s going down, and the only way they could possibly know that is if they have an informant,” the source said. “It’s highly possible that this is a tactic used by authorities to collect fines that only these Chinese businessmen could afford to pay.”

Another source, a Chinese businessman associated with North Korea, told RFA, “Most of the Chinese businessmen that work near Rason can easily pay the $10,000 fine.”

“The fact that the police are able to selectively crack down on wealthy businessmen, but leave general travelers alone makes it highly likely that this really is some kind of secretive preplanned tactic,” the source said.

The source also explained that the motive isn’t always money. “In the past they’ve used the same tactics to selectively deport the foreign businessmen they don’t like,” he said.

“But the recent crackdowns give me the impression that authorities are focused on collecting money by setting up foreign businessmen and sticking them with giant fines,” the source said.

Reported by Joon Ho Kim of RFA Korean Service. Translated by Dukin Han. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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