North Korea Cracks Down on Women Wearing Shorts: A Look at Gender-Discriminatory Laws
North Korea

North Korea Cracks Down on Women Wearing Shorts: A Look at Gender-Discriminatory Laws

north korea

It’s one of the most repressive countries in the world, and the latest decree out of North Korea is just one example – shorts have been banned! But it’s not just anyone who has been banned from wearing them, it’s women. And to make matters worse, the ban has come during a heatwave with temperatures reaching over 30° Celsius.

The ruling seems to have come from North Korea’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong-Un himself – with him declaring that the wearing of shorts by women amounts to “capitalist fashion”. It’s unfortunately common for citizens in the Asian nation to face bans on certain activities or forms of dress, but this might be one of the most bizarre ones yet.

It’s only through Radio Free Asia, a broadcasting service designed to pierce through any propaganda North Korea puts out, that we know about the new ruling. Through interviewing an anonymous resident, they were able to get the skinny on the latest development in one of the world’s most isolated countries.

North Korea’s draconian loyalty to Kim Jong-Un has recently taken an unexpected turn. Ten women were arrested in the country this month, merely for wearing shorts above the knee. The news, reported by a radio station, came from an anonymous source.

According to the source, the women were forced to write a statement of self-criticism and sign a document saying they would face legal consequences if caught wearing shorts again. Citizens in North Korea are outraged at the inequality, as men are allowed to continue wearing shorts without any legal repercussions.

Coming down hard on ‘anti-socialist behaviour’, the shorts ban is just one more way the North Korean regime is oppressing and discriminating against people, particularly women. Earlier in August, Radio Free Asia reported that Kim Jong-Un himself had placed a ban on smoking in public – one that only affects women. Residents of North Korea can only imagine what kind of fines will be imposed on those who dare to light up.

Under Kim Jong-Un’s rule, it’s clear that North Koreans have very few rights and freedoms. As we observe from afar, it’s our responsibility to be aware of this situation and stand together against prejudice and injustice.

Recently, two female citizens were fined for daring to smoke outside as they ate–and were warned that if they were caught again, they could be sent to a dreaded disciplinary labour center for a month.

Last year, authorities also came down hard on any woman who dared to show off her ‘capitalist’ style of dress, including tight trousers and dyed hair. Women committing such a crime were broadcast on state television and dubbed ‘capitalist delinquents’ in a hypocritical display of ‘ideal’ North Korean style.

Such oppressive and often arbitrary clothing regulations are also seen in other countries in the region – Japan, for example, has long held strict rules about how its students dress and style their hair. In this nation, girls have been barred from wearing ponytails as it is feared that the exposed back of their necks may ‘sexually excite’ male students.

For decades, Japanese schoolchildren have been victims of a draconian system of rules that govern even the most minor everyday details. From skirt length to eyebrow shape, and even hair colour and texture, the list of regulations known as “buraku kosoku” is long and often seems absurdly exacting. In some schools, students must provide photographic evidence of their natural hair colour and texture — or face punishment if it strays from the required black and straight form.

The origin of these rules dates back to the 1950s and ’60s, when the Japanese government sought to create a systematic education system. The detailed regulation of uniform, behaviour and conduct blossomed in the 1970s and ’80s and was purported to reduce violence in schools; some commentators suggest its aim was simply to ensure nobody stands out.

This system has also had its critics, who claimed that even mundane details like underwear colour were subject to scrutiny — with white being the only option permitted. Following complaints, schools have now dropped this rule, allowing students to wear grey, black or navy blue undergarments. How exactly this ordinance is enforced remains a mystery.

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