Monday, August 24, 2015
Women in North Korea
We hear a great deal about the conflict between the North and South Korea these days: another reminder that we don't have a peace agreement but only a ceasefire.
Hopefully, the two parties will realize that 70 years with a ceasefire, and the continual threatening words and skirmishes on both sides of the demilitarized zone are not good for either side.
South Koreans are curious about the North and their way of life. South Korea has some 30 thousand defectors from the North living in the South, so knowledge of the North is easily available. A drop in the numbers coming to the South seems to be the situation at present, and we do have an increase in the numbers who return to the North. Reasons would be many, but the difficulty of adapting to a very competitive society would be one, but also the efforts of the North inviting them back with financial rewards.
In the column devoted to news about the North in the Catholic Times this week, the writer addresses the place of women in the society of North Korea. North Korea is very proud of their laws and policies in regard to the equality of the sexes-- "no place in the world is more welcoming to women than North Korea." The columnist does not disagree with this evaluation for in laws and policy this seems to be the reality.
North Korea had the laws in place even before the country was a political reality. Women's role in society was equal to the men, and their work in the house was recognized by society. On the books, women are equal to the men but the Confucian society, and the understanding of patriarchy is sill strong and operative.
During the famine years of the 1990s, the work of the women increased greatly. Although the treatment of women as inferior to men and the traditional patriarchal Confucian society were a hand down from previous generations, the sexual assault of women was not a problem, however, this has changed in the present society. The columnist finds that a lower status of women in society, despite the laws, has been accepted by the women and endured.
The open sexuality of the men and the expectation of purity on the part of women is making for a society contrary to the one intended. The lack of education in the schools and society is a reason for the change. The economic difficulties of society and the need for women to work to raise their families have increased the problem, and given birth to the trafficking of women and forced prostitution.
This has also increased the violence in the homes. No matter how serious the problem there is no recourse to the law. This abuse of women in the home, concludes the columnist, is a basic human right not respected: a problem in the North not perceived by society.