Seminar: Women and the North Korean Economy
Join a seminar featuring two internationally preeminent scholars in North Korean studies: Professor Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University, Professor SeokHyang Kim of Ewha Womans University; and a panel of Australian experts to discuss North Korea’s quiet transformation.
North Korea is often described as the world’s last Stalinist country, but this description is misleading in several important ways: the country is now an emerging market economy and undergoing significant cultural change. While the Stalinist facade remains, de facto private enterprises (ranging from small markets and private plots, all the way up to large pseudo-state coal mines and trading companies) have come to dominate the North Korean economy. The cultural landscape is also experiencing significant change. In this workshop the panel of experts, who conducted numerous interviews with North Koreans, will outline some of the key changes that are occurring in this country in transition. A particular focus will be directed to economic and social change, including changes in consumption patterns and the spread of popular culture, gender relations and the rise of drug production and consumption. These issues will be discussed in the context of the emerging market economy. This workshop will also include discussion of first hand accounts from students originally from North Korea.
Talk 1: "The winds of change: the birth of unofficial culture and its impact on daily life in post-famine North Korea"?
The last 20 years for North Korea have been a time of change. The economy moved – quietly but steadily – from being a textbook example of the Stalinist hyper-centralisation to a mixed government/private economy. The information about the outside world began to pour in. The government has lost its ability to control, once remarkable and perhaps unprecedented, and people began to create a new type of consumer culture. The talk deals with how foreign influences get into North Korea, how they are absorbed, and what the North Korean public learn about the outside world. We will talk about changes in dress, popular culture, values and goals of the younger generation, which are motivated by outside influences.
Prof. Andrei Lankov was born in 1963 in St. Petersburg. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Leningrad State University (PhD in 1989). Between 1996 and 2004 he taught Korean history at ANU, and since 2004 he has been teaching at Kookmin University in Seoul. His major English language publications on North Korea include: From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960 (Rutgers University Press, 2003); Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956 (University of Hawaii Press, 2004), North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea (McFarland and Company, 2007), The Real North Korea (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Talk 2: Entrepreneurial Women and North Korea’s Post-Socialism: Transformation of Gender Roles Since the Early 1990s
Over the last 20 years, North Korea has undergone a dramatic social and economic transformation. While the old facade of Juche-style state socialism is maintained, actual economic life is determined by a multitude of private enterprises. The talk, based largely on interviews with North Koreans, traces the impact these social changes have had on family life. In many respects, North Korean society is reminiscent of the post-socialist societies of Eastern Europe and USSR. However, the disintegration of the state socialist regime has not led to deterioration in the relative position of women in North Korea. In fact, their social standing has improved, as women have assumed important positions in the newly emerging North Korean private economy. Paradoxically, this prominence came about because of the earlier discriminatory policies and practices which marginalised women and excluded them from the ‘proper’ state-led economy. Interestingly, the new economy has emerged on the margins, and from the very beginning has mainly been dominated by women.
The workshop is funded by the Australian Research Council, the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies (CCS).