North Korea’s Legal System and Gender Equality Laws since the Economic Crisis

Stream: Panel 67 - Gender Politics: Law, Justice and Gender 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 9.00 am – 10.30 am


During the 1990s, faced with an economic crisis and food shortages, the North Korean government allowed the UN and NGOs to administer food and medical aid within the country. For the first time these organisations were able to gather information on the lives of North Koreans. From this information international pressure increased for North Korea to improve its human rights record. This resulted in North Korea signing onto UN Conventions including the Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2001. In its communications with North Korea, the CEDAW Committee noted with concern customary attitudes in the states legal system. In 2010, North Korea addressed some of the concerns of the CEDAW Committee in the promulgation of the Women’s Rights Act. Although, this law reiterated provisions included in earlier laws it also addressed for the first time discrimination against women in other forms such as domestic violence and rape. However, on close examination of the law it is revealed that the gendered language employed by the North Korean government has not changed significantly since the promulgation of the Law on Equality of the Sexes in 1946 or the state’s accession to CEDAW in 2001. In this paper I consider the legal rights of women since the economic crisis in the 1990s and highlight the gendered lens employed by the North Korean government in the promulgation of states laws that are said to guarantee equal rights between both genders.


Amanda Anderson (Presenter), Australian National University
Amanda's work examines ways in which North Korea represents gender in state approved communications with the world. Amanda’s new research project focuses on the deployment of history in North Korea's reunification policy. As with other aspects of North Korean official discourse, there are gendered elements in the states unification policy – in the focus on the sexual exploitation of women by the Japanese military and then the US military, and in the different roles ascribed to men and women. Therefore, Amanda's work also considers the gendered language employed by North Korea when discussing the unification of Korea.