North Korea on Sunday slammed a report by Human Rights Watch which said sexual abuse of women was rampant in the isolated nation.
In its report released Thursday, the US-based rights group said North Korean police and other officials prey on women with near-total impunity.
HRW drew on interviews with more than 50 North Korean escapees to chronicle gruesome details of rape and other abuses perpetrated by security officers such as border guards, but also civilian officials.
In its response Sunday, the North's Korean Association for Human Rights Studies said the "preposterous" report was "a part of political scheme fabricated by the hostile forces ... to tarnish the image of the DPRK", the state Korean Central News Agency reported, using the country's official acronym.
"It is also an extremely dangerous provocation aimed at reversing the tide of peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula," the statement said, branding the women interviewed as "human scum".
In the HRW report, one anonymous former textile trader in her 40s recounted being treated like a sex toy "at the mercy of men".
"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," where they forced sexual encounters, she said.
"It happens so often nobody thinks it is a big deal. We don't even realize when we are upset," she added.
Pyongyang maintains that it protects and promotes "genuine human rights", and says there is no justification for the West to try to set human rights standards for the rest of the world.
"Sexual violence in North Korea is an open, unaddressed, and widely tolerated secret," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth.