Female donju rise to prominence in the taxi industry

Seol Song Ah  |  2017-06-15 17:11
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An increasing number of female donju (newly-affluent middle class women) are reportedly entering the taxi industry and employing male drivers. These women are purchasing their own vehicles and becoming influential players in the private taxi industry.
Since the rise of marketization began in the early 2000s, female donju have become an emerging economic pillar in North Korean society. Symbolic of this rise is the fact that many of these women can now hire male party members who formerly wielded authority over them.
"Recently, the number of taxis in Pyongsong and Sunchon has increased, and becoming a taxi driver is considered a dream job with a relatively high salary. The drivers are hired through interviews conducted by the female donju who own the taxis, so their status is naturally rising," a source in South Pyongan Province recently told Daily NK.
"The party members have now become accustomed to the new order. In the past, they would have ignored such women, but now they have to respect them and maintain good behavior to earn their trust.
In addition, as taxi cabs that can carry 5-8 passengers have become more popular than 2-4 passenger taxi cabs, the role of the female donju has also widened. They frequently choose to manage the accounting themselves while sitting next to the driver's seat, taking a role similar to that of a conductor.
In particular, female donju are using their personal connections built on the basis of their financial influence to solidify their authority. Even the so-called "tenth guardpost," which directly controls the residents and the circulation of products has been unable to prevent these changes.
"If a taxi is stopped by the tenth guardpost and delayed due to a license inspection, the customers never use the taxi again. Therefore, these women pay bribes to every guardpost to ensure a reliable service for the customers," said a source in North Pyongan Province.
"The taxi passengers are saying that the authority of these female taxi owners is so powerful that the male drivers show the same level of obedience to them as if they were Party secretaries. The drivers seem to be especially on edge because the owners can fire them for disobedience regardless of whether they are party members or not.
In North Korea, only males who are approved by the government are eligible for a driver's license. Under this system, women are fundamentally excluded from drivers education, so female donju who acquire savings through market businesses have started to hire male drivers, in turn changing the structure of authority between men and women.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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