Women in the Markets of North Korea

It is a challenge to report on North Korea without talking sometimes about the hardships in the country. On this blog, we generally try to focus on fostering greater understanding of this place so different from our own, and to do that we often play up the “good news” or choose lighter fare to cover, since so many sources focus instead on the negative. We try to provide a picture of hope.

But, to deserve the respect of our readers, sometimes we have to cover difficult issues. We’ll touch on some such issues in this post.

A new report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics examines the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in North Korea. It used a detailed survey of refugees living in South Korea to build a picture of life inside North Korea over the past ten or twenty years.

A woman sells snacks at a roadside stand on April 21, 2012. Photo credit David Guttenfelder / AP Photo.

One of the most prominent features of gender inequity in North Korea is the role of women in private markets. Women tended disproportionately to be shed from government or party jobs, which along with the military are deeply biased toward men; women also tend generally to be less likely to hold a job in general. Continue reading

”Everyone Thinks Highly Of South Korea”: Part 3 of 3 on Outside Media in North Korea

A diagram from InterMedia shows the pyramid structure of the outside media environment in North Korea. Photo credit InterMedia.

In posts 1 and 2 of this series on outside media in North Korea we saw all sorts of accounts from defectors about the procurement, consumption, and utility of outside media in North Korea.

Now it’s time for a conclusion.

What effect does all of this foreign media have on North Koreans? We’ve seen already that it can affect the way they run their businesses, the way they fill their free time, and even the way they speak. It also affects the way they think, although proponents of sending material specifically targeted at North Koreans should be aware that it might not have the same effect as, say, South Korean TV dramas. The study’s authors cite defectors who were appreciative of the lack of overt messages or careful selection of subjects in dramas, and note that “North Koreans are well-practiced consumers of heavy-handed propaganda and the absence of such propaganda in South Korean dramas increases their credibility in the minds of many North Korean viewers.” In other words, North Koreans aren’t that easy to fool; they are used to propaganda, and rather than brainwashing them, it has made them sophisticated and world-wise. Continue reading

“It Works Like A Market Economy”: Part 2 of 3 on Outside Media in North Korea

A radio tower stands in North Korea. Radio inside the country is limited to state transmissions, but citizens are often able to pick up transmissions from China or South Korea. Photo credit InterMedia.

In part 1 of this series we were introduced to the surge of outside media availability inside North Korea, reported in a recent survey of defectors and others with recent inside experience in North Korea by InterMedia. In this post we’ll go deeper into the role outside media plays inside the isolated country.

DVDs aren’t the only source of information on the outside world. CDs, cassettes, USBs, and even micro-SD cards are flourishing in black market trade, providing additional access to outside films and TV shows. Access typically comes through border residents or through the political and economic elite; the media are then shared with trusted contacts throughout the country. Some people in positions of power can even “order” a show or film brought in and it will make its way across the border through a network of bribery and smuggling. Continue reading

In the News – Poll Shows Belief in Collapse Scenario


In the News –  Poll Shows Belief in Collapse Scenario

According to a new ‘unification consciousness’ poll by the state-run National Unification Advisory Council, 74.6% of people believe that the Kim Jong Eun regime will collapse.

The poll targeted 1,000 young adults and middle aged people in Korea’s 16 major cities.

In more detail, 14.3% said that the regime ‘will collapse in a few years’ while 60.3% said that ‘it will take time but eventually will collapse’. Meanwhile, 18.6% responded that the Kim Jong Eun system will ‘continue on for 30 or more years’.

34.0% of the 746 respondents who predicted the collapse of Kim Jong Eun system said that it will happen within the next 10-20 years. Other answers were ‘in more than 30 years’ (26.2%), ‘20-30 years’ (14.2%), and ‘less than 5 years’ (3.5%).

Other questions covered the people’s attitude toward North Korea. 46.1% said that North Korea represents ‘something we must cooperate with’, 21.9% said it is ‘something to guard against’, 14.4% said it is ‘an enemy confronting us’, and 13.2% said that it is a ‘problematic headache’.

Regardless of which, 61.6% of respondents preferred gradual unification. Only 7.8% answered that ‘unification must be achieved as soon as possible’. On the other hand, 25.4% said North and South Korea ‘must co-exist in the current state’ while 4.7% said that ‘unification is not necessary’.

Looking toward the things that people believe the South Korean government should prioritize, 29.8% said ‘creating more inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation’, 20.4% said ‘raising national security awareness’, 16.3% said ‘enhancing diplomacy with regional powers’, 15.3% said ‘raising the money to pay for unification’, and 15.0% said ‘strengthening our independent national defense strength’.

This poll was conducted between April 6th and 8th by the National Unification Advisory Council using the CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) method. The respondents were young adults and middle aged people from 19 to 40 years old.

Original Article 

Foreign Media in North Korea

I wrote an article a while back on the impact of South Korean media in North Korea and how big its role has become. Well, to say the least, the amount of access North Koreans have to foreign news and media content is the highest it’s ever been. And, more importantly, it’s making a difference.

A recent study conducted by InterMedia and commissioned by the U.S. State Department on the impacts of foreign media within North Korea says that although North Korea still remains as the world’s most reclusive country, “ the [North Korean] government’s ability to control the flow information is receding.”

The government still has laws against accessing foreign media but much of it relies on citizens reporting on each other. However, with less people willing to turn their neighbors in, the government is losing its power. A Korean would even say that the North Korean government has become like a tiger with a loud roar but very little teeth to do any damage. Of course, North Koreans are still smart about their actions and are still wary of government inspection teams but the thing that has changed the most is that people are more open to sharing their movies and dramas with each other instead hiding it in fear. Continue reading

Nam-Nam Buk-Nyuh: The Southern Man and the Northern Woman

Joint Defector Wedding

There’s a saying in Korea about “Southern men and Northern women.” Basically, it says that men from the South of the Korean Peninsula are handsome and women from the North are beautiful. My grandmother tells me that way back when, it was favorable for a man from the southern region to marry a woman from the northern region. Apparently, people thought that northern women had the full package. However, lately, it seems that this belief is coming back. Continue reading

On the Streets of Insadong

With my heart pounding, I looked apprehensively at passersby in Insadong as I stood on the street with a sign around my neck. To create a promotional video for the Public Relations department of the Ministry of Unification (MOU), Kelly, Jay, and I decided to conduct a survey on reunification and MOU to both foreigners and Koreans. However, this was easier said than done, especially because I had no such experience of approaching strangers and asking them to answer questions. Continue reading