Women from North Korea are being trafficked across the border into north-east China and face abuse and exploitation – but a Christian ministry is reaching out to help them.
Open Doors is serving between 150 and 200 trafficked women every year. They are sold into marriage or servitude from North Korea and many are abused and ill-treated. Open Doors workers offer practical assistance, pastoral care and Bible studies.
One of them, Hwa-Young, said the trafficked women "grew up in severe poverty. They are always hungry. All of them know what it is like to worry about every meal, to eat from the trash and to beg for food.
"They go to pre-school in North Korea when they are about five years old. But they are still forced to watch public executions. Sometimes friends or neighbours were murdered in front of their eyes.
"Even when they are older and leave the country, they still experience that psychological pressure of fear. There is much more freedom here in China, but the women are still not safe. Additionally, most of them have been abused, both in North Korea and in China. They feel numb. They don't even feel the hurt any more."
She said the women were "raised in fear". "Pyongyang was once the Jerusalem of the East," she said, referring to how Christianity used to be prevalent in the capital. "Now the people have to worship idols of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in this city."
She said the goal of the women's project was to raise up female leaders for the future. Around 10 of them are being trained for women's ministry in China, with the long-term goal of helping build the Church in North Korea, which ranks as the most hostile place for Christians in the world on Open Doors' World Watch List.