Those interviewed described abuse and rape by police, prison guards, and even officials who oversee some of the growing private markets, who exact bribes in the form of sexual favors.
"Now, women can not survive without having men with power near them".
"It never occurred to me that I could or would want to do anything about it. It was just how things are".
"I think President Moon is naive and short-sighted to pretend that human rights can wait", he said, urging Seoul to "stop accepting negotiations exclusively on the terms of the North Korean government".
More than half the interviewees left the country after 2011. The hermit nation is suspected of a range of human rights violations, including public executions and arbitrary detentions of suspected activists and dissidents.
HRW said it revealed a culture of open, unaddressed abuse, particularly from men in positions of power. There are an estimated 450 markets in the North, analysts say.
The former trader in her 20s said she was sexually assaulted several times by police officials and train inspectors between 2010 and 2014, when she fled North Korea to resettle in the South.
Women not in custody risked jeopardizing their source of income or being sent to prison camps.
Oh Jung Hee, a former market trader from Ryanggang province, told the watchdog: "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". A third woman said sexual abuse was considered shameful for women because people thought they must have brought it on themselves. "We [women] are at the mercy of men". "So sometimes, out of nowhere, you cry at night and don't know why". The respondents were comprised of 31.29 percent men and 68.71 percent women. "Traders like my wife have to accept that sexual coercion is part of social and market dynamics".
The study says that abuse is rarely reported because the government does not adequately investigate or prosecute, nor does it do anything to protect survivors, all while claiming that such abuse does not occur at all in North Korea.
Also vulnerable are women who enter China illegally to find work or smuggle goods.
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He added: "In the past few months our people have faced hard times and it's possible that the next few months will be hard ". Barack Obama, the USA president at the time, had argued the deal would prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms.
The report comes as US-led global diplomacy focuses on North Korean nuclear disarmament.
Sources say that around 19,000 objectors have been jailed for refusing conscription since 1950, a lot of them Jehovah's Witnesses.
Women in North Korea are mostly too afraid to report sexual harassment.
Only one of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch bothered trying to report her assault.
"Click, click, click was the most frightful sound I ever heard", she said. "Every night, a guard would open the cell".
Roth told reporters Thursday the objective of the report is not to destabilize the North Korean regime but request its highest authorities to solve the issue of sexual violence.
North and South Korea on Friday agreed to officially inform the International Olympic Committee of their intent to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics as they continued with reconciliation efforts.
"The North Koreans we spoke with told us that unwanted sexual contact and violence is so common that it has come to be accepted as part of ordinary life: sexual abuse by officials, and the impunity they enjoy, is linked to larger patterns of sexual abuse and impunity in the country", the report stated.
Fewer than 10 perpetrators have been convicted of rape in North Korea in recent years, according to data submitted to a United Nations committee by the Pyongyang government in July 2017.
US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed more than 50 escapees from the secretive nuclear-armed state to provide a rare insight into the widespread sexual violence there.