In North Korea, The Fourth Man Could Be A Woman

Barbara Demrick in The New Yorker:

“The conventional wisdom is that a woman could never ascend to the leadership of North Korea, a country stuck in a time warp of passé fashions, hairdos, music, and social mores. A toxic mix of Confucianism and totalitarianism indentures women to their husbands, to their in-laws, and, ultimately, to a male-dominated regime. With a few exceptions (the best known being the vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui), North Korea’s senior cadres are almost entirely male. The Supreme People’s Assembly—which currently has six hundred and eighty-seven members—is supposed to set aside twenty per cent of its seats for women, but the percentage has frequently dipped lower. And the primary function of these token deputies seems to be to brighten the optics, by wearing the jewel-toned, floor-length Korean gowns best known by the South Korean term hanbok. Since 1948, North Korea has been ruled by three men—the founder, his son, and his grandson—but, nevertheless, it is now conceivable that the fourth man will be a woman. That is because, with reports that Kim Jong Un is in failing health, the most obvious successor is his thirtysomething sister, Kim Yo Jong.”

And dig this:

“She was reportedly a favorite of her father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled from 1994 until his death, in 2011, and who, according to a former Russian official, Konstantin Pulikovsky, may have had a more enlightened attitude toward women than some of the North Korean élite. Pulikovsky, who travelled with Kim Jong Il by train and later wrote a memoir about the experience, told interviewers that the leader praised the intelligence of his daughter, while deriding his sons as ‘idle blockheads.'”

Despite being 36 years young, obscenely rich, and with access to world class medical care, Kim Jong Un is allegedly at risk of dying due to obesity, chain smoking and who knows what other vices. Dad’s assessment seems spot on, which begs the question, why didn’t he go with Kim Jo Young in the first place.

Most likely for two reasons. Too young and . . .

“‘North Korea is so outlandishly sexist, despite the fact that they are supposed to be a revolutionary society. When it comes to gender relations, it is like South Korea decades ago,’’ Katharine H. S. Moon, a political-science professor at Wellesley College who has written about gender issues in Korean politics, said. In fact, as Moon notes, women have not fared well in politics in South Korea, either, a nation that is routinely toward the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s list of developed countries’ rankings on gender equality. South Korea’s only female President, Park Geun-hye, was impeached in 2017, and is now in prison, serving twenty-five years for bribery, extortion, and abuse of power, which some maintain is harsher treatment than accorded men who committed comparable offenses.”

 

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