One major — and largely unspoken — problem for North Korean women is skyrocketing domestic violence.
Ewha University’s Kim Seok-hyang makes a point of asking North Korean defectors about domestic violence. “I interviewed more than 60 people. All of them agreed violence is there against women. Violence against women is not news for them. It’s so natural, it’s happening almost every day.”
She blames men’s alienation and frustration with their diminution of power within the family for the problem.
Outside the home as well, in the marketplace, women are vulnerable too, says Marcus Noland, the deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. In his research of women working in local markets, 95 percent reported paying bribes to police and officials, who would try to shake them down.
That — and being exposed to new ideas in the marketplace — could affect women’s political views. “Women, because of their prominence in the market, are at the forefront of acts of civil disobedience,” Noland says, emphasizing that civil disobedience is still extremely unusual in North Korea. “The protests are generally reactive and defensive in nature, but women are very prominent in them.”