News >

Sexual attitudes opening up, but restricted by lack of sex education

Kim Ji Seung  |  2017-04-27 15:02
As the cherry blossoms bloom and spring weather comes to South Korea, its also warming up for dating season. Young couples can be seen strolling down the streets holding hands in the warm sun. 

But how about dating and marriage customs in North Korea? First of all, dating culture in the traditionally conservative North has loosened up a bit recently. Defectors have reported that it is not uncommon for North Koreans to refer to one another using terms borrowed from South Korea such as jagi (honey) and oppa (lit. older brother; but women use it as a term of endearment for boyfriends in South Korea). 

This change in dating behavior underscores the North Korean peoples yearning for the freedom to express their love. North Koreans who watch South Korean dramas and listen to foreign radio are showing particular interest in enriching their lives by casting away old norms. 

However, in reality, consciousness about gender norms and sexual behavior remains limited. When asked how they learn about sex in North Korea, many defectors respond that they found out about it on their own. 

Although sexuality is more open now than in the past, we still don't receive any sex education, said defector Kang Yong Ae in a conversation with Daily NK. In North Korea, people are not very accustomed to talking about sex. It's really only possible to talk about it with very close friends. 

I never tried to talk about what men and women do together at home or at school. Its really up to the woman to find out things related to sex on her own.

Sexual violence is not considered a serious issue by the North Korean authorities, or in society in general. 

Defector Kim Jong Hee added, Even though dating habits are becoming more liberal, theres still a lot of sexual violence. It is important to teach about concepts like contraception and mutual respect in the home or in the classroom, but that doesn't happen in North Korea. The absence of sex education leads to social problems. 

Because the authorities neglect to address the situation, acts of sexual violence are even committed right out in the open. A defector named Lee Song Ah told Daily NK that there are regulations stipulating gender equality and protecting against sexual violence in North Korea, but I've never seen any of those stipulations enforced.

North Korea experts acknowledge that the import of media products from China and South Korea has led to a liberalization of sexual attitudes, but insist that it is unlikely that this will be supplemented with any kind of formal education efforts by the authorities. 

North Korean media like the Rodong Sinmun newspaper only report on items that can serve as regime propaganda. That is why its important for South Korea and the international community to implement efforts that enhance discussions about sexual harassment and sexual violence into the North Korean media landscape, one expert who declined to be identified said.

The North is in an illogical state of affairs and people there aren't able to advocate for themselves. Women in the North are forced to respect the countrys leader even though they are not being protected. That is why the international community needs to reach out to these people to try to promote universal values like equality.

*Edited by Lee Farrand

Advertisements, links with an http address and inappropriate language will be deleted.