Femininity in North Korea

ANU Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
East Asia Forum Quarterly, 2016, 8 (2)
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Important changes are taking place inside North Korea. The collapse of the command economy, and the emergence of capitalism in its place, is ongoing. A burgeoning moneyed elite and increasing exposure to foreign pop culture are transforming how North Korean femininity is conceived. These changes are reaching far beyond Pyongyang to affect many, if not most, women in the country. Officially, North Korea’s founding juche (self-reliance) ideology supports gender equality. In practice the leadership cult that was entrenched under Kim Il-sung, who led the country from 1948 to 1994, gave patriarchal relations a significant boost. Under Kim Il-sung, the nation was recast in line with traditional, largely Confucian, male-dominated family structures — a considerable backslide from the progressive gender norms promoted by the early Korean socialist movement. Despite its rhetoric, Kim Il-sung’s juche ideology directly perpetuated gender subordination.
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