Yeonmi Park, now 27, managed to enter China with her mother in 2007, who was only 13 years old. Her older sister had escaped days earlier, and the family feared reprisals from the North Korean authorities.
“We initially thought my sister and I were going and if you went to China we thought we would be adopted by a family or something. We were so naive.
“We didn’t know how dark the world was. We didn’t think there were human traffickers selling girls for sexual slavery.
“My sister left on March 26 and four days later my mother and I followed her.
“After that, my father, my aunt, everyone was beaten and tortured because we were missing.
“But because fortunately we were following a few days later, we were not tortured.
“The rest of the family were tortured because of our escape.”
READ MORE: Kim Jong-un takes aim at ‘anti-socialists’ in bizarre coronavirus rant
“As soon as we arrived in China, the first thing I witnessed was the rape of my mother in front of me.
“They sold me my mother for at least $ 65 to $ 75 and they sold me for less than $ 300 because I was a virgin. I was 13 and a half years old.
“They sold me apart from my mother, so I was separated from everyone. We were sold to a human trafficker and so much has happened. ”
The London-based Korea Future Initiative estimates that North Korean women’s trade to China is worth $ 100 million (£ 79 million) per year.
Ms. Park, who calls on the Beijing government to crack down on illegal trade, described the treatment of North Korean girls and women in China.
She said, “They were buying us, they were selling us, they were raping us, it wasn’t like we were being treated like humans.
“They followed us to the bathroom, there is no dignity in it.
“We were like a product they just brought. The way we were treated in China is indescribable. “
After two years in captivity, Yeonmi and her sister were reunited and managed to escape to Mongolia by crossing the Gobi Desert.
In Mongolia, she was helped by representatives of the South Korean embassy who facilitated her trip to South Korea, where there is a large community of North Korean defectors.
Ms. Park has written a book, “To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” which covers her life and escape from North Korea.