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North Korean Students in the South Dish about Gender Differences

The “Southern man, Northern woman” trope gets a reworking in a discussion with a small group of former North Korean refugees, now university students aged 21-33, on their perceptions of differences in attitudes and behaviors between men and women in the North and the South.

While living in China, the men became accustomed to seeing scantily-clad women, but since their resettlement in the South, they feel awkward and find it difficult to accept the assertiveness and independence of women here. Below are few direct quotes from the students:

“North Korean women are circumspect while South Korean women tell everything and act like men” and “North Korean women care about men, but South Korean women don’t” were some of the responses.
“북한 여자들은 속으로 좀 감추고, 감싸고 해서 단아한데 남한 여자들은 할 말을 다하고 남자처럼 군다”, “북한 여자는 남자에 대한 배려가 있지만 남한 여자는 그렇지 않다”는 등의 답변도 나왔다.

According to the North Korean women, “Southern male students are attentive.”
탈북 여학생들은 “남한의 남학생들은 자상하다”는 평가가 많았다.

According to one female student, “North Korean male students dampen the spirits of women, following the precept ‘Men are exalted and women are abased’.”
한 여학생은 “북한의 남학생들은 여자를 기죽이고 남존여비 사상이 있다”

One male in his twenties reported about North Korean wives, “Before coming to the South, they accommodated the family and followed their husbands. Here they are free and do not endure any more. When North Korean women go back home, their husbands browbeat them while South Koreans show concern.
한 20대 남성 답변자는 “(부인이) 남한에 오기 전에는 가정에 순응하고 남편을 잘 따르다가 여기에 오면 자유를 얻고, 보는 게 있어서 더 이상 순순히 참지는 않는다”며 “북한 여자가 집에 들어가면 남편이 윽박지르고 하는데, 남한 사람들은 배려를 베풀어 준다.

Northern man bad, Northern woman good. Southern woman bad, Southern man good. No surprise to see the name of a male reporter, Im Ju-young, in the Yonhap byline.

  • Ryan

    “While living in China, the men became accustomed to seeing scantily-clad women”

    Quick, where in China were they living? Jilin? Dandong?..quick! Any teaching jobs there?

  • Siddhartha

    #1 LOL.
    Skirt above the knee and tank top constitute “노출 옷차림은” scantily clad dressing.

    You should check out Qingdao for English jobs… Don’t expect better pay compared to Korea, but girls are hot!!

  • Yu Bumsuk

    It’s interesting how often I’ve heard those exact same things said of the differences between western men & SK guys and western women & SK women (usually be western men who fancy themselves more worthy recepients of submissive women’s charms).

  • Granfalloon

    I wonder if they still do that “walk behind him and don’t step on his shadow” thing up North. Nothing would surprise me at this point.

  • hojusoju

    No surprise to see the name of a male reporter, Im Ju-young

    While in ignorance of the chinese characters for his name, 주영 is a pretty gay name for a male. Not that there is anything wrong with that. And not that one should be basing assumptions about someone according to their gender, either.

  • http://sungnyemun.org/wordpress/ dda

    This guy was indeed very gay. Indeed…

  • Zonath

    North Korean women are circumspect while South Korean women tell everything and act like men

    And North Korean women look like men, what with the heavy farm labor and all… Kinda funny how the communist ideology that espouses equality amongst the sexes would also produce more docile women.

    The “Southern man, Northern woman” trope gets a reworking

    Anyone know how that whole thing got started, anyhow? Is it just some stupid wordplay on the Chinese characters or something, or a hold-over from the days when the South was more politically dominant, and exploited the North for all of its ‘natural resources’?

  • hojusoju

    I don’t know about gay but he sure did fuck a lot of people up the ass, as did 박정희, another guy with a name that is nowadays considered a girl name. Maybe there is a link here?

  • http://www.dprkstudies.org/ Richardson

    A different angle on 남남북녀.

    In the 90s there was a lot of anticipatory speculation about the ‘extra’ women – nice, more ‘traditional’ and relatively docile women – that would be available to South Korean men after reunification. Along with all the cheap labor former North Koreans in general would provide.

    Economics aside, the social issues Germany faced after their reunification will be nothing compared to what Korea likely will see.

  • MigukNamja

    So, North Korean women are valuable resources that belong to South Korean men and North Korean men are valuable resources that belong in factories (working for Korean men) as eunuchs ?

    Nice how that works out for the established power structure, isn’t it ?

  • http://www.jdlink.co.kr Linkd

    I fully reject the idea that there is a wealth of economic benefit to be derived from transferring the current North Korean population into some sort of labor-intensive modern industry. They simply don’t have the skills, education, mindset or personal experience to add any sort of margin to ANY production process. They represents a future social welfare drain, not a future economic gain.

  • JG


    To me, that parallel isn’t interesting so much as blindingly obvious. In all of the messy interaction between sociobiological universals and cultural variation, this has got to be the #1 unavoidable truth. The frequent gee-whiz reaction from observers is what I find strange.

  • virtual wonderer

    old news… North Korea is essentially the same Korea as it has been 40 years ago… culturally…

    probably why South Korean pop culture is becoming popular over there.

    this is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a future korean unification…

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