North Beauty
Assigned project
A critical moving image on representation of North Korean women defectors on South Korean mass media
This assigned project examines and represents how North Korean women defectors are portrayed in the South Korean mass media.

71% of total 31,339 North Korean defectors in South Korea are women. However, their experiences in South Korea are continually gendered and sexualized. <Now, Going To Meet> is a South Korean television talk show produced by and aired on Channel A where North Korean women defectors share their personal memories of the North Korean society at large.

Although it is notable that North Korean women gained a voice in the public sphere through the program, <Now, Going To Meet> strengthens the South Korean masculinity by instrumentalizing the North Korean cast. The show calls the women "North Beauties", and degrades them as mere entertainment with talent shows every episode. It simultaneously and contradictorily represents them as both (1) wise and strong to have overcome hardships, and (2) pure and thrift from capitalism. This sexualizing representation is utilized to idealize the cast in the South Korean patriarchy, and thus appeal to the main target audience of middle-aged men. It succeeds to sustain the male-centered South Korean society while framing personal memories of women as evidence of the brutality and inhumanity of the North Korean government. In order to assimilate into South Korea, the cast have no option but to internalize the misogynic objectification. They internalize and even spontaneously conduct the commercialization of themselves.

This project is based on the components of episode 314 <Christmas Special> of <Now, Going To Meet> aired on 24/12/17. Christmas is a symbol of the resocialization of North Korean defectors as religion is nonexistent in North Korea, and as Protestant churches provide the largest amount of resources and support in South Korea aside from the government.

The objective was to represent how the media sexualizes North Korean women to deliver their ideology, and to question the subjectivity of the "given" voice of North Korean women on the show. Can North Korean women defectors speak? Is the voice theirs when their identities are socially reconstructed to be utilized for media strategies?

Ministry of Unification (2017). Number of North Korean Defectors Entering South Korea. Policy on North Korean Defectors. Retrieved 10/04/18.

Lee, Sun-Min (2014). How Can North Korean Women Defectors Speak?: A critical analysis of television talk show <Now, Going To Meet> (Channel A). Media, Gender & Culture 29(2). 75-115.

Nam, Gungchan & Kim, Yeran (2016). Politics of Emotion On North Korean Women Defectors. Journal of Communication Research 53(1). 105-148.

Park, Joowon (2016). The Gendered Contours of North Korean Migration: Sexualized Bodies and the Violence of Phenotypical Normalization in South Korea. Asian Ethnicity 17(2). 214-227.

Spivak. G. C. (1988). Can the Subaltern Speak? In: C. Nelson, L. Grossberg (Eds.). Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. University of Illinois Press.