ISSN : 0023-3900
The present study examines the origins and reformulation of namjon nyeobi (‘superior men, inferior women’) in North Korea. The persistence of namjon nyeobi despite the North Korean regime’s promotion of gender equality should be understood as a consequence of collective male and female service to socialism rather than a product of feudalism, Confucianism, or patriarchy. Historical analyses and interviews with North Korean migrants show that namjon nyeobi was reinforced by communist education in the 1960s and reformulated as standard socialist ethics thereafter. In pre-crisis periods, women functioned as the main instruments of social transformation in their supporting roles as mothers, wives, and daughters-in-law. Such reinforcement of fixed gender roles strengthened through post-crisis times as the imperative of survival further heightened the will to preserve the family for women whose breadwinning duties were executed in close association with men. Socialist namjon nyeobi should be understood as the hierarchies and roles assigned to ordinary men and women within Juche socialism.