Gender Politics and Nation-Building: Constructing a New Type of Femininity in North Korea (1945-1957)
From the beginning of state-building in North Korea, its ideology has always been developed in line with the theory of Korean revolution. Initially, the conception of the Korean revolution was based on the main postulates of the Marxist-Leninist theory of revolution, implying its development changed from a bourgeois-democratic stage to a socialist one. Regarding North Korea, after its liberation from Japanese colonialism, this conception meant a gradual transition from anti-imperialism to the anti-feudal democratic revolution and then to the current socialist regime. For the implementation of the first stage of the Korean revolution in 1946, a series of laws were adopted, which provided a solid basis for socialist transformations in North Korea. Officially, the anti-feudal democratic revolution completed in 1947 with the establishment of the People's Committee of North Korea; however, this began a transitive period that lasted until 1957. Thus, until the present time, the idea of the Korean revolution has been an essential structure of political discourse and has determined the current tasks of nation-building. During the first and transitive stages of the Korean revolution, liquidation of socioeconomic and political inequality, including gender discrimination, was one of the main tasks of state-building. The liberation of women was understood in terms of the theory of class struggle and exploitation and implied granting women equal civil rights and freedom. Korean women were seen as a significant labor source, whose mobilization could significantly contribute to the establishment of socialism. The gender policy in 1945-1957 was mainly aimed at wakening the political conscience of women and their involvement in industrial production. Hence, the new sociopolitical regime and its policies influenced the transformation of traditional femininity and masculinity, which was primarily determined by the dominant neo-Confucian ideology. This study attempts to answer questions regarding how the theory of Korean revolution has impacted gender politics and to what extent North Korea could break with the traditional image of femininity.