Elderly Women Should Stop Complaining and Start Participating

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin
10/7/2008

An inside source from North Korea reported on the 6th that the North Korean authorities have ordered that any woman under the age of 70 who is able to hear, see, and move should participate in the activities of the “Chosun (Korean) Democratic Women’s Union.”

According to the source, “The Central Committee of the Women’s Union Chairwoman Kim Soon Hee decreed that the elderly who are able to move must participate in Union activities, rather than uselessly sitting around and complaining about society.”

After the worsening food situation, the source said that the elderly often sit around and pour forth their complaints about society, saying that “We did not live like this before… If we worked, at least we received wages and provisions, but what kind of a situation is this nowadays?” and blaming the inadequate governance of officials.

Since the food crisis, there have been many instances of the elderly selling goods in alleyways or at street-stands. In particular, after the implementation of the regulation of December 2007 which prevents women less than 40 years of age doing business in the market, the elderly increasingly sell products at stands which are managed by young women from behind the scenes.

Elderly women who do business in the jangmadang (market) have been accordingly playing the role of circulators of all kinds of rumors and complaints, such as saying, “How many more years are left in our lives? At least our children must live well, but there is no sign of that and it is much worse than the Japanese colonial period; how can we not blame the world?”

The recent measure can be seen as another ploy to control the citizens by the North Korean authorities. However, involving elderly women in organizational activities to prevent the worsening of civilian sentiment has been protested against by constituents as well as the elderly.

The elderly who heard the recent news have complained, “It is difficult enough just to live until our 60s, how can they tell us to participate in the Women’s Union activities as well?”

Also, the source relayed elderly concerns over their livelihoods, “Members participate in study sessions twice a week and have to carry out tasks distributed by the Union, so they do not have time to sell in the market. In their free time during the difficult period, they have been doing business and helping their families get by. The changed regulation is a death sentence for these families.”

Currently, the total number of members in the Korean Democratic Women’s Union, which started out as the “North Chosun Democratic Women’s Union” on November 18, 1945, is around 200,000. Until now, the targeted entrants have been women over 31 and below 55 who do not belong in other organizations or working places. The main activities of the Women’s Union are studying political ideology regarding women and rolling out various projects.

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