The Neglected North Korean Crisis: Women's Rights

Sea Young Kim, Leif Eric Easley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


North Korea references gender equality in its socialist constitution, but the de facto social and legal circumstances that women face in the country are far below the de jure status they are purported to enjoy. North Korean women endure extremely low public health standards and pervasive harassment. Yet their growing market power and social influence are underestimated. Women account for the majority of North Korean border crossers, and their informal economic activities are supporting families while modernizing the economy. This essay examines the dangers of exploitation that North Korean women face and highlights the ethical and legal imperatives of supporting their roles in marketizing the economy and liberalizing the society in one of the worst human rights-violating states. Women are North Korea's most deserving recipients of international assistance and the country's most promising partners to the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalEthics and International Affairs
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.


  • China
  • DPRK
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • cross-border migration
  • gender equality
  • human rights law
  • international organizations
  • labor exploitation
  • marketization
  • public health


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