In the HRW report, one anonymous former textile trader in her 40s recounted being treated like a sex toy “at the mercy of men”.
“On the days they felt like it, market guards or police officials could ask me to follow them to an empty room outside the market, or some other place they’d pick,” where they forced sexual encounters, she said.
“It happens so often nobody thinks it is a big deal. We don’t even realise when we are upset,” she added.
Pyongyang maintains that it protects and promotes “genuine human rights”, and says there is no justification for the West to try to set human rights standards for the rest of the world.
“Sexual violence in North Korea is an open, unaddressed, and widely tolerated secret,” said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth.