Feminists for North Korea

Perhaps nothing could better expose the moral and intellectual vacuity of a popular militant strain of modern feminism than some of its members’ support for the Stalinist open air prison calling itself North Korea.


According to a shocking report via CNN, a variety of women’s rights advocates, including famed American feminist Gloria Steinem, will travel to the 38th Parallel in order to take part in a so-called march for women’s rights backed by the dictatorship in Pyongyang. They plan to make a controversial and symbolic walk across the demilitarized zone that has separated North and South Korea since the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953. The march is opposed by Seoul but is apparently backed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“We wanted to end the state of war on the Korean Peninsula,” said the march’s organizer, Christine Ahn, in an interview with CNN. She went on to say that those who accuse her of sympathizing with the North Korean regime have embraced a “Cold War, McCarthyist mentality.”

But CNN spoke with a variety of North Korean experts, including human rights advocates and North Korea scholar and Columbia University Prof. Su Mi Terry, who accused Ahn of displaying excessive sympathy toward the North Korea position on a variety of issues.

According to the blog One Free Korea, Ahn’s writings lead a neutral observer to conclude that she is at least deferential to the North Korean communists.

Ahn opposed human rights legislation for North Korea that funded broadcasting to North Korea, and that provided for aid and asylum for North Korean refugees, calling it an effort “by hawkish conservatives and Christian fundamentalists with the intention of bringing regime change in North Korea.” (As if that would be a bad thing.) To Ahn, “In order to debate about North Korean human rights . . . [w]e must go beyond political freedom to include economic and social rights; we must discuss human rights based on history and facts; and we must prepare not war or sanctions, but a peaceful and inclusive base to improve human rights.”

Ahn claims to be merely “pro-peace,” except that you’ll never catch her criticizing North Korea for breaking it. For example, to Ahn, the “root cause” of North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, an attack that killed two ROK Marines and two civilians, was the illegitimacy of South Korea’s claim to the waters around it, the failure of South Korea to turn those waters into a neutral “peace zone,” and the failure of the United States to redraw the boundary unilaterally in the North’s favor, regardless of South Korea’s views on the matter.

On at least two separate occasions, Ahn has referred to North Korea’s “alleged” sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, an attack that killed 44 South Korean sailors, despite the findings of an international investigation team that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the ship. This was almost certainly a nod to a conspiracy industry that grew up in left-wing South Korean circles that were in denial after the attack. If Ahn has ever acknowledged North Korea’s responsibility for the attack, I can’t find where she ever has.


It might not be the best course of action for a North Korean sympathizer to accuse those who are alleging that she holds communist sympathies of engaging in McCarthyism. The central criticism of Joe McCarthy was that he had a penchant for making unfalsifiable and often unfounded accusations against private Americans of being secretly sympathetic toward Soviet socialism. If Ms. Ahn had ever found herself in the dock at the House Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthy might find his suspicions quickly confirmed.

As for Steinem, the brutal regime in Pyongyang is vocally supportive of her work and the Western targets of her ire. “It’s hard to imagine any more physical symbol of the insanity of dividing human beings,” Steinem recently said of the DMZ.

“Ahn has said the women are being advised by former UN ambassador Bill Richardson, and that the UN Command at the DMZ has said it would be willing to facilitate their crossing once South Korea’s government gives its approval,” The Guardian reported. But, so far, South Korea has declined to endorse the march.

If women’s rights are also human rights, then North Korea is no friend to either. The regime in North Korea is complicit in the deaths of untold thousands, if not more. The government holds whole families in prison for the political offenses of a small few. Often, according to the accounts of those who manage to escape this modern gulag archipelago, many endure grave physical abuse, starvation, and often succumb to their torment inside the camps.


“Kim Jong-Un’s power is built on the continued abuses inflicted on the North Korean people because he sits at the helm of a central government apparatus that uses public executions, extensive political prison camps, and brutal forced labor to maintain control,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Phil Robertson said in January.

The United Nations, a target of lobbying by Steinem and Ahn to sanction their march, has been perfectly clear that the regime in North Korea is guilty of horrific, sanctioned sexual violence as a form of coercion.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry found the North Korean government committed systematic human right abuses on a scale and gravity without parallel in the contemporary world – including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence. In March, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution supporting the findings and, in November, the third committee of the UN General Assembly followed suit by approving a resolution resounding 111 to 19 vote, with 55 abstentions. On December 22, the entire UN General Assembly approved that resolution by a similarly lopsided vote.

Life across the Chinese border is no better for the North Korea women who are lucky enough to escape their abusers in the Hermit Kingdom. “In 2010, one aid worker estimated that around 90 percent of North Korean women escapees ended up becoming victims of human trafficking. This includes exploitive labor and prostitution, but bride trafficking has been a large market in the rural areas of China, close to the North Korean border,” a 2012 report in The Diplomat read.


Refugees from North Korea are terrified of what awaits them if they are arrested and deported back to their homeland; a fear that is exploited by the traffickers. Some women may agree to be sold as a bride rather than be deported, while others are coerced into trading sex for their presence to be kept silent. North Korea has strict laws designed to maintain its racial purity; it denounces marriages to foreign nationals and does not allow the entry of Chinese-Koreans or other mixed race children. Mothers are separated from their children, and women who return pregnant are subjected to forced abortions. Witnesses have reported that a woman was forced to drown her half-Chinese newborn. Many other Chinese-Korean children are denied legal recognition, with an estimated 10,000-20,000 such “stateless” orphans in China.

As ever, the progressive movement turns a blind eye toward real abuses in order to support the cause of totalitarian statism. This is not a new phenomenon, but its moral repugnancy is shocking. The overreach by these two ostensible feminists now clearly exposes their immorality and authoritarian political agenda for all to see.

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