April 13, 2024

North Korea’s unfinished women’s liberation

Pro-emancipation rhetoric, need for female labor, clashes with engrained patriarchal ideas

March is the month when there is a lot of talk about women in the North Korean press. Indeed, on the 8th of March, North Korea celebrates a holiday once widely known throughout the Communist Bloc: the Day of International Women’s Solidarity.

Initially, the March 8 holiday was conceived as a celebration of radical feminism. It is almost forgotten by now, but in its early romantic days, the communist movement was decisively feminist. Supporters of the early revolutionary Marxism not merely believed in the political and legal equality of women, but also demanded the economic gender equality, and emphasized that reducing the women’s load should be one of state’s responsibilities. Like it or not, communists were feminists well before feminism became a movement of the Western middle class.

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