North Korea to Hillary Clinton: ‘Mind Your Own Business’

The Hermit Kingdom’s disdain for women emerges in its official statement.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers her opening statement seated next to her South Korean counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-Hwan on June 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jun 19, 2012
Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

Last Thursday, while speaking to reporters following a meeting with South Korean foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged newly anointed North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un to break from tradition and prioritize feeding the country’s impoverished people over its nuclear and military ambitions.

“This young man, should he make a choice that would help bring North Korea into the 21st century, could go down in history as a transformative leader,” said Clinton. “Or he can continue the model of the past and eventually North Korea will change, because at some point people cannot live under such oppressive conditions—starving to death, being put into gulags and having their basic human rights denied.”

Perhaps the world is entering a stage where it will pay attention if the atrocities against women in one of the worst places on the planet to be born a girl are pointed out.

North Korea didn’t take kindly to the unsolicited advice. On Sunday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea went on the attack, declaring Clinton’s call for change “reckless” and throwing in a few barbs for good measure:

“The United States should mind its own business, since 99 percent of its population is exploited by those who account for just 1 percent,” he said, according to the New York Times. “Hillary would be well advised to pay more attention to the issues of economic crisis and huge hordes of jobless people, which have become so serious that they may dash the hope of the administration of the Democratic Party to stay in power.”

The horrors of North Korean gulags that Clinton mentions have been well-documented. But surprisingly little attention has been paid to the violations of women’s rights in the country.

Since 1978, girls in North Korea have been subjected to a state-endorsed system of prostitution known as gippeumjo, or “Pleasure Brigades,” which take girls as young as 13 and turn them into erotic dancers, masseuses or prostitutes. Refusing the “honor” is not an option, and those selected for the Pleasure Brigades who make it into their twenties can only hope to be gifted to a high-ranking official as his reward. 

For women fortunate enough not to end up working as sex slaves or in prison camps, the outlook is still bleak. Few have access to formal education. Even in cities, women are banned from wearing pants or riding bicycles, restricting their ability to work and organize.

As the country’s economy continues to deteriorate, the situation for women gets even more dire. The government is now reportedly stooping to state-sponsored sex tourism to make ends meet.

The regime’s disdain toward women is even apparent in its public statements. It’s called Secretary of State Clinton a “minister in a skirt” in the past, and calling her “Hillary” in its rebuke on Sunday is an attempt to cow Clinton, like millions of its own women, into submission.

But the world was a vastly different place when Kim Jong Un’s grandfather took control of the country in 1948. Whether it’s Germany’s Angela Merkel, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, or Burma’s resurgent Aung San Suu Kyi, women wield far more political power now than at the close of World War II.

Perhaps the world is entering a stage where it will pay attention if the atrocities against women in one of the worst places on the planet to be born a girl are pointed out.

As the U.S.’s most powerful woman, Clinton is in a unique position to start changing the conversation about North Korea. America’s established policy of doling out handouts in exchange for broken promises clearly hasn’t worked to pacify the nation, and neither has vilifying its nuclear ambitions.

Let’s find out if calling out the treatment of half its population will.

Can North Koreas new leadership be pressured into treating women better? Let us know in COMMENTS.

Oliver Lee has been covering social justice and other issues for TakePart since 2009. Originally from Baltimore, he lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn. Email Oliver | @oliverung


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