Kim Jong-un’s regime targets North Korean women in unusual new campaign

North Korea has launched a new campaign in an attempt to prevent a common practice, and women are bearing the brunt of it.

Kim Jong-un’s regime targets North Korean women in unusual new campaign
© Bloomberg / Getty Images
Kim Jong-un’s regime targets North Korean women in unusual new campaign

North Korea is reportedly trying to prevent couples from getting divorced, targeting women in particular.

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Education campaign to prevent divorce

Sources in North Korea told Radio Free Asia (FRA) that the country is launching an education campaign to tackle the perceived issue. An anonymous woman in North Hamgyong province said:

The directive … emphasized that divorce should be prevented by strengthening ideological education for those who propose divorce

The source added that the theme of the ideological education project is 'Let’s thoroughly eliminate the phenomenon of divorce and build a harmonious family, the cell of society'. She said:

Party and labor organizations were ordered to strengthen individual collective education in order for each woman to fulfill her duty as a mother, a homemaker, and a wife.

Divorce rates in North Korean are not publicly available. However, at least one source claimed they were rising and that one of the main explanations for this was the huge stress that economic difficulties have put on families – and women in particular – following the Covid-19 pandemic. She said:

This phenomenon is directly related to the problem of the people’s livelihood, which has become increasingly difficult each day since the coronavirus crisis began

In North Korea, women are typically the breadwinners in households. This is because men work in government-assigned jobs, receiving modest salaries that are insufficient to live on.

As a result, women often have to run a side business, like selling food or crafts in a market stall, to support the family.

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How the campaign works

A source from the northern province of Ryanggang told RFA’s Korean Service that housewives were discouraged from divorce at lectures held by the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea on orders from the Central Committee. She said:

The lectures affirmed that divorce is against the party line and policy, which says that it must be somehow eliminated

However, the source revealed that residents who attended the lecture complained that the initiative unfairly blames women for families breaking down and failed to recognise the state’s responsibility to improve living standards. She said:

They ask things like, 'Do you think women would voluntarily break up their families if it was easier to live?'

The North Hamgyong source claimed that in addition to the lectures, the government is even threatening to punish the parents of divorcing couples by shaming them in public. She said:

The Central Committee ordered that not only should the divorce petitioners be held accountable at collective meetings, but their parents should also be as well, for erroneous education of their children.

The campaign will also hold companies responsible if there are high divorce rates among their employees. The Ryanggang source revealed that every government institution, factory, and enterprise in the province will be investigated to determine the number of divorcing households. She said:

Company officials are nervous because the Central Committee has a policy to hold them responsible for poor family management in the organization if divorce and family discord frequently occur among employees' families.

Sources used:

Radio Free Asia: 'North Korea launches anti-divorce campaign, targeting women'

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