worker wages
FILE PHOTO: North Korean women at the customs office in Dandong in mid-February 2019. (Daily NK)

Do North Korean women believe that women’s rights are protected in their country?

According to the “2023 North Korean Women’s Rights Survey Results Report” released on Mar. 7 and compiled and analyzed by Daily NK with the support of the Embassy of Canada to the Republic of Korea, not a single respondent answered in the affirmative when asked, “Are North Korean women’s rights well protected by the government?”

Specifically, 11 out of 30 respondents (36.7%) said their rights are “not well protected,” 9 (30%) responded their rights are “not protected at all,” while 6 (20%) said their rights are “partially protected.” Four (13.3%) of the respondents said they were not sure whether their rights are protected.

In 2010, the North Korean government passed the “Women’s Rights Protection Law.” However, the Daily NK survey found that more than a decade after the law was enacted, North Korean women still perceive that their rights are not protected.

In fact, 21 out of 30 North Korean women who participated in the survey (70%) said they had never heard of the Women’s Rights Protection Act. There appears to be a significant lack of awareness about legal support for women’s rights and what rights can be legally protected.

When asked, “Have you ever received any education on women’s rights?”, 25 respondents, more than 80% of the total, said they had never received such education.

In addition, when asked whether women’s status in the household has improved, 13 respondents (32.5%) said that the rights of those women who are skilled and earn a lot of money have improved. This shows that any improvement in women’s rights is due to their active economic activities rather than national policies, proving once again that North Korea’s marketization has led to an improvement in women’s status and role in the household.

At the same time, 10 people (25%) responded to the same question by saying, “North Korean women’s rights cannot be fundamentally equal to men’s,” suggesting that gender discrimination is still deeply ingrained in the minds of North Korean women.

Survey reveals widespread sex-related offenses

Daily NK’s survey also documented various cases of sexual assault against North Korean women in markets, the military, detention centers, and workplaces.

Specifically, 22 out of 30 respondents (73%) said they had encountered cases in which colleagues in the workplace, military, or markets either demanded sexual favors or coerced, manipulated, or deceived them into sex by offering opportunities related to work, promotions, or their market business.

Daily NK announced the results of the survey at the North Korean Women’s Human Rights Conference in celebration of International Women’s Day, hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Jung District, Seoul, on the morning of Mar. 8.

An English translation of the survey report will be released shortly.

Translated by Annie Eun Jung Kim. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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