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Gender in Transition: The Case of North Korea

  • Stephan Haggard

    ()

    (University of California, San Diego)

  • Marcus Noland

    ()

    (East-West Center & Peterson Institute of 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, we find that women have been disproportionately shed from state-affiliated 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. Among the most recent cohort of refugees to leave North Korea, more than one-third of male respondents indicate that criminality and corruption is the best way to make money, and 95 percent of female traders report paying bribes to avoid the penal system. In short, the increasingly male-dominated state preys on the increasingly female-dominated market. 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.

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File URL: http://www.eastwestcenter.org/sites/default/files/private/econwp124.pdf
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Paper provided by East-West Center, Economics Study Area in its series Economics Study Area Working Papers with number 124.

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Length: pages 43
Date of creation: Dec 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ewc:wpaper:wp124
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  1. Yoonok Chang & Stephan Haggard & Marcus Noland, 2008. "Exit Polls: Refugee Assessments of North Korea's Transition," Working Paper Series WP08-1, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  2. Marcus Noland, 2000. "Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 94.
  3. Haggard, Stephan & Noland, Marcus, 2010. "Reform from below: Behavioral and institutional change in North Korea," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 133-152, February.
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