Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


In this thesis, I focus on North Korea’s communications with the outside world through the medium of the English-language, with a particular focus on the workings of gender in North Korea’s international relations. First, I focus on the North Korean government’s communications in the official English-language magazine, Women of Korea between 1964 and 1992. The magazine was modelled after the Korean-language equivalent Chosǒn Yǒsǒng (Korean Women). The visual images and text in the English version of the magazine portray a positive image of gender equality in North Korea to the world. However, close reading of Women of Korea reveals that the North Korea government operates according to gendered assumptions about the roles of men and women in society. North Korean women are seen to be the primary carers of children and responsible for the majority of domestic chores while men’s role is to work outside the home to earn money. Additionally, visual images and text in the magazine reveal that women are mobilised to work outside the home in occupations seen to be “suitable” to their characteristics. While publications like Women of Korea cannot be taken at face value as a literal and empirical portrait of the situation of women in North Korea, they can be analysed for insight into the government’s official views of the roles performed by men and women. I then focus on communications between the North Korea and the United Nations between 2000 and 2011. Since the admission of the country into the United Nations in 1991, the North Korean government has communicated formally with the international community about the human rights of women and other vulnerable groups. The United Nations has advocated for the North Korean government to accede to and ratify various conventions and to make changes to its legal system to improve the human rights of all North Korean people. In this thesis, I analyse reports exchanged between the North Korea and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (“CEDAW Committee”) between 2001 and 2005. Although the relationship between North Korea and the CEDAW Committee is limited, the exchange of reports gives those outside North Korea an insight into the government’s thinking about the roles men and women perform in society and the home. While North Korea has taken the initial step in signing and ratifying United Nations conventions it does not mean that the government has always followed, implemented, or made legal changes to existing state laws to ensure requirements within the conventions are met. Consequently, non-governmental organisations charge that the North Korean government has not adequately addressed issues such as gender equality and discrimination against women in all forms. Instead, presenting a positive picture of gender relations and gender equality is one of the North Korean government’s strategies in international relations. I argue in this thesis that the communication between North Korea and the United Nations and in its official English-language magazine, Women of Korea, reveals the North Korean government’s gendered ideologies to the international community.