Over the past decade, we have witnessed a dramatic shift in the role of North Korean women, from traditional mother to breadwinner. Economic collapse, famine, and the so-called Arduous March have had unintended consequences for North Koreans, forcing them to become more active economic agents. Many North Korean women started working in the black market (jangmadang), and became extremely mobile, seeking economic opportunities in new cities, new regions, and even across national borders. As a result, the mobility of North Korean women and their economic activities in the market have had a significant influence in contemporary North Korean families. It can be argued that the traditional woman, or typical mother under patriarchy, is now considered to be less ideal, giving way to a new, economically dynamic model for women in North Korean society. North Korean women retain a strong commitment to motherhood when they cross into the Sino-North Korean borderland, and actively engage with the children they have left behind through remittances and regular phone calls. Geographical distance and their illegal status do hamper their mothering practices to an extent, causing intimacy and motherhood to undergo substantial changes in North Korean families. Nevertheless, North Korean migrant mothers still prioritize long-distance motherhood over their own personal well-being as well as that of any new families they make or join in the course of their migration trajectories.


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pp. 97-122
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