Training so hard that menstruation stops

 A former officer of Nia's fourth major army says that it is so difficult for a woman to serve in this army that most women soon stop menstruating.

Photo by DAVIDCOHEN on Unsplash

Former North Korean army officer Lee Soo-yeon says rape is common for female soldiers.

For almost ten years, Lee Soo Yun slept in a room where more than two dozen women lived besides her. Each female officer was given a small wardrobe to keep her uniform, and on each wardrobe were framed pictures of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, and his successor, Kim Jong-il.

Even after ten years, Lee Soo Yun still remembers the smell of these barracks well.

'We used to sleep on beds made of rice straw. Body odor settled in these beds. They were not cotton beds, they were made of straw, so all kinds of odors were present in them. We felt very bad.

Lee Soo-yeon says that what seemed to be the hardest part of being a woman was that we couldn't even bathe properly.

There was no provision of hot water. They supplied water through a pipe from a mountain spring. Because the water was coming directly from the spring, sometimes snakes and frogs would also enter it.'

So Yoon is now 41 years old. She is the daughter of a university professor and grew up in the northern part of the country. Most of the men in his family were in the army. When the country was in dire straits due to famine in the nineties, he also volunteered to join the army thinking that at least he would get daily food. Thousands of women took this path.

Seventeen-year-old Lee Soo-yeon's early days in the army were good because at first she was filled with feelings of patriotism and collectivism. She was even impressed by being given a hair dryer for her sole use although it was rarely used due to the lack of electricity.

The daily tasks of women and men were almost the same. Women had less time for exercise, but they also had to do chores like cleaning and cooking that their male counterparts were exempt from.

According to Juliet Morelot, the author of the book 'Korea in Hundred Questions' about North Korea, North Korean society is male-dominated and the traditional roles of men and women are defined by gender. .

The intense training and poor diet took a toll on the bodies of Su Yun and his teammates.

'After six months to a year of service, due to lack of food and constant mental stress, we started menstruating late.'

Female soldiers used to say that they were glad they stopped menstruating because the conditions were so bad that menstruating would have caused more problems.

Su Yoon says that when she worked in the military, there was no regulation and she and her colleagues had no choice but to reuse used sanitary pads.

Writer Juliette Morelot, who recently visited and spoke to several female soldiers, confirms that these women often do not menstruate.

'One 20-year-old girl I spoke to told me that her training was so intense that she didn't get her period for two years.'

In addition, sexual harassment is also common.

According to Morelot, women personnel posted in remote areas do not have separate toilets and have to go through this process in front of men. Because of this, these women feel very insecure.

Morelot says that when she asked female soldiers about rape, they all told of others. No one said it happened to him.

Lee Soo-yeon also says that she was never raped when she served in the North Korean army from 1992 to 2001, but many of her colleagues were.

'Company commanders would stay in their rooms for hours after work and rape their female soldiers. It was an unstoppable cycle.'

However, North Korea's military says that rape is taken very seriously, and convictions for rape can carry up to seven years in prison.

But according to Morelot, no one comes forward to testify, so the men often escape punishment. "The silence on sexual abuse in the military is rooted in North Korea's male-dominated society."

Lee Soo-yeon served as a sergeant in the signal unit of the North Korean army. He left the army at the age of 28. He was granted leave from the army to spend more time with his family. But she was unprepared for the world outside the army and faced financial difficulties.

He decided to escape to South Korea in 2008.

She failed in her first attempt. She was caught at the Chinese border and sent to jail for a year.

He made a second attempt soon after he was released from prison. They swam across the Tyumen River and reached China. At the border there, she entered South Korea from China through a broker

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