Aug. 11 (UPI) -- A South Korean lawyer who has accused North Korean defectors of accounting fraud says sexual misconduct is common in the defector community, and that she is a victim of rape.
Jeon Su-mi, an attorney who previously worked as an activist with groups that launched helium balloons at the border, told South Korean television network YTN the organizations have been operating as nonprofits while taking advantage of funding from U.S. agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy.
Jeon, who said she began working with North Korea human rights activists in the early 2000s, said groups she has worked with are misappropriating funds.
The mostly male groups would use the money to pay for entertainment at venues like room salons, private South Korean bars where men pay for the company of hostesses. The groups would invite non-members, acquaintances in the defector community, to the gatherings. During one event, Jeon said a male defector raped her after following her to a women's restroom.
"I feel North Korea's sexual mores are where the South's culture was in the '60s and '70s," Jeon told YTN.
Jeon, who filed a lawsuit in 2019 against two South Korean military officers for the rape of a female defector in their custody, said North Korea's patriarchal sexual norms silence North Korean women who do not speak out about rape. The women are at risk of being assaulted by other defectors and have been the victims of South Korean authorities tasked with overseeing their resettlement, according to Jeon.
In July, a North Korean defector fled across the border after being accused of sexual assault.
The South Korean attorney, who recently founded the Wave of Peace Institute, has also said she remains concerned about retaliation against defectors who are supplying evidence of accounting fraud, News 1 reported Tuesday.
Jeon made the claims of false accounting on Aug. 3 during a meeting of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
In July, Seoul called for the audit of several defector groups.