United States Institute of Peace

International Network for Economics and Conflict

Gender in Transition: The Case of North Korea

Written by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute for International Economics

This paper uses a survey of 300 North Korean refugees to examine the experience of women in North Korea’s fitful economic transition. Like other socialist states, North Korea has maintained a de jure commitment to women’s rights. However, the authors find that women have been disproportionately shed from state-affi liated employment and thrust into a market environment characterized by weak institutions and corruption. As a result, the state and its affiliated institutions are increasingly populated by males, and the market, particularly in its retail aspects, is dominated by women.These results paint a picture of a vulnerable group that has been disadvantaged in North Korea’s transition. Energies are directed toward survival, mass civil disobedience is reactive, and as a group, this population appears to lack the tools or social capital to act collectively to improve their status.

Read the paper here.