North korea humanitarian crisis

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North korea humanitarian crisis

NPR By Priscilla McCelvey In discussions of humanitarian and human rights issues in North Korea, the introduction of a gendered lens could contribute significantly to the conversation. Here, a gendered lens means looking at the thoughts, motivations, and actions of different actors, be they individual, local, national, or international, and considering how norms of gender affect them.

North korea humanitarian crisis

Questions asked under a gendered lens include the following: How are masculinity and femininity constructed and performed? Who polices those violating these gender norms and how are they punished?


These questions require the recognition that men and women are socialized in different ways that affect their daily needs, realities, and perceptions. Furthermore, it must also be recognized that the construction and reinforcement of gender is conducted by a variety of systems and institutions, including family members, teachers, community members, governments, and religious leaders.

A gendered lens is critical because of how gender roles are constructed and actualized by the state of North Korea. By contrast, fatherhood is viewed as the counterpart to motherhood.

It could be argued that the sparse framework provided for fatherhood indicate that motherhood, and thus femininity, are valued more highly in North Korea.

Conversely, the reference of Kim Il-Sung as both father and mother of the nation could imply that the main requirement of the North Korean people is to uphold the state and enhance its collective good.

However, given the nature of the North Korean regime and its emphasis on autonomy, cultural homogeneity, and racial purity, in addition to the historical influence of Confucianism on gender roles, these constructs of masculinity and femininity also must be considered with regards to human rights and humanitarian issues.

Given also the fact that desirable traits of states and nations are inherently gendered masculine, looking through a gendered lens offers important insights on the actions of the North Korean state with regards to its citizens.

For example, the rise of free markets in the rural provinces of North Korea as a result of the famine challenges current constructs of masculinity in North Korea. Interestingly, these markets were often run by women, who became the sole breadwinners in their families.

Men often engaged in work that was considered more dangerous, such as smuggling or cross-border trade, or even domestic work; generally, these provided little to no consistent remuneration and were in addition to their government-assigned jobs.

The shift from men to women becoming breadwinners can indicate the true severity of the humanitarian crisis in North Korea; the breaking away from traditional gender norms in this regard was a matter of survival.

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Previously, women were responsible for domestic work such as child-bearing, raising children, and household chores whereas the men supported the family economically.

This aligned with s and s government propaganda that simultaneously promoted technology distribution into households to reduce the workload of women in their homes and also population growth among North Korean families. Instead of mothers of nation, they were mothers of families.

The case of the markets in the rural provinces offers several considerations that are relevant to other humanitarian issues in North Korea. First, was it easier for women to participate in the free markets because the government did not monitor them as closely as men, who are assigned jobs by the government?

Second, how and how often were women caught and punished, and did their families suffer similar consequences?North Korea is in the midst of acute humanitarian crisis.

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Even with one of the largest allocations of food aid in the world almost a million tonnes annually famine will persist; many North Koreans subsist on roots and edible grasses. Read the latest North Korea headlines, on NewsNow: the one-stop shop for North Korea news.

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