Kim Jong-un has put himself forward as an unlikely new leader in the movement for gender equality – marking International Women’s Day with a series of public events and speeches in North Korea.
The North Korean dictator referenced the 8 March celebration observed around the world – but not before he had hailed it as the 20th anniversary of his predecessor Kim Jong-il’s “scientific theory” on the role of women in “pushing ahead with the revolution and construction”.
It was the first in a series of incongruities surrounding the recognition of a day for women’s rights in a country where, according to a panel of female defectors in Seoul on Tuesday, women do not receive sex education, are subjected to forced abortions and in the military are required to perform sexual favors on their higher-ranking men.
The secretive state’s official KCNA news agency reported that a string of the regime’s most senior figures –all male – met with “exemplary women and women officials and members of the women’s union” at a cultural center in Pyongyang.
At a visit to an airbase, Kim Jong-un did not actually meet any women in person but asked commanding officers to pass on gifts of food and cosmetics, according to a state newspaper.
The report in the Rodong Sinmun paper came as one of a series putting forward North Korea’s feminist credentials while criticizing the “discrimination against women workers protested in South Korea”, who KCNA said were unable “to live as human beings”.
KCNA’s main report on the anniversary of “Kim Jong-il’s work and International Women’s Day” said the country had “demonstrated its might as an example of the progressive women’s movement of the world under the wise guidance of peerlessly great men”.