The narratives of women activists highlight the important roles of critical awakening, a sense of responsibility, guilt and moral conscience, reciprocity and caring for others, as well as an altruistic vision for others, all as driving forces for their activism. These findings highlight two major interrelated characteristics: relational and future-oriented dimensions. Founded on these, I present a new theoretical concept that I call ‘Altruistic Political Imagination’, which seeks to describe North Korean women’s human rights activism more aptly than existing concepts around imagination and altruism. This framework is an ongoing development built on my previous work on North Korean human rights activism.
This final chapter provides a recapitulated overview of the book, drawing on all the chapters. It re-emphasizes the significance of activism in improving the lives of North Korean women. It also reinforces the salient contribution of Altruistic Political Imagination in unpacking human rights activism, in conjunction with its potentially wider application to the analyses of other movements and activism. Additionally, it examines what has been achieved so far through the activism of North Korean women abroad, as well as other international endeavours to improve the situations of North Korean women. This chapter further discusses some limitations of the study and makes recommendations for future research.
This chapter examines North Korean women’s individual experiences of grave human rights violations, both inside the regime and after they have escaped to China. The first part focuses on women’s narratives of human rights issues in North Korea, such as domestic violence and sexual harassment. The second part explores women defectors’ experiences during their escape, primarily focusing on human trafficking and forced/voluntary marriages to Chinese men. It also presents the harrowing experiences women endured during and after repatriation to North Korean detention centres. The main argument of this chapter is that North Korean women experience a continuous cycle of oppression throughout their lives, both inside and outside North Korea, owing to the intersection of the deep-seated patriarchal structure of North Korea, the absence of freedom of movement, and China’s treatment of North Korean border-crossers as illegal migrants.
This chapter examines changes and constants in North Korean society since the mid-1990s, when the country faced severe famine. In particular, it investigates the rise of the informal market economy – and its subsequent impact on gender roles – and a large exodus of women to China as a consequence of the economic crisis. The chapter situates the North Korean diaspora within the context of globalization and its implications for North Korean refugees and their human rights. It further discusses human rights debates in North Korea and defector human rights activism outside North Korea.
Recent North Korean diaspora has given rise to many female refugee groups fighting for the protection of women’s rights.
Presenting in-depth accounts of North Korean women defectors living in the UK, this book examines how their harrowing experiences have become an impetus for their activism. The author also reveals how their utopian dream of a better future for fellow North Korean women is vital in their activism.
Unique in its focus on the intersections between gender, politics, activism and mobility, Lim's illuminating work will inform debates on activism and human rights internationally.
This chapter explores the narratives of North Korean women activists about their involvement in human rights activism, including critical awakening and the turning point of their identity from victim to activist. The chapter examines motivating factors for their activism, as well as challenges and strategies. The women’s narratives suggest a strong sense of altruism and concern for other people in similar situations, which have operated as motivators for their activism. In conjunction with this, their imagination of a better future for fellow North Korean women (and children) has become the driving force behind their activism. The chapter further discusses their plans from an operational perspective: what possible collaborations and works could be undertaken?
This chapter examines methodological considerations, focusing on ethical issues and the challenges of studying North Korean women defectors and their human rights issues. It applies a critical feminist approach. The chapter begins with a phenomenological method, linking to the life history and power of storytelling. Due to the risk of potential repercussions that defectors and their families face from the regime, as well as the sensitive nature of the topic, the study raises several ethical concerns. In addition, the dynamics between a woman researcher of South Korean heritage and North Korean women defectors poses methodologically important questions. Reflecting upon these, the chapter discusses the complex dynamics between insider and outsider, knower and enquirer, in a critical manner.
Intentional communities around the world are experimenting with new paradigms for human society, including participatory political practices, cooperative economic arrangements and holistic educational modalities. As such, they are perhaps the most compelling contemporary exercise of utopianism and certainly have something to teach us about attempting to foster positive societal change. This book examines Auroville, the largest, most diverse and long-standing intentional community in the world, internationally recognized for its holistic, progressive and inclusive ideals and practices. Located in Tamil Nadu, South India, Auroville uniquely draws on spiritual ideals to enact a prefigurative utopian practice applicable to all aspects of human society; the author, a scholar native to Auroville, offers an in-depth autoethnographic analysis of how its ideals have been, and continue to be, articulated, embodied and developed in realms as wide-ranging as the community’s political and economic organization, as well as various cultural practices. Responding to critiques that spirituality discourages activism, this work is revelatory of the strategic role and influence of spirituality in inspiring, informing and sustaining prefigurative political practice, while providing an honest analysis of the challenges of direct democracy, as well as prefiguring an alternative form of economic organization within a mainstream capitalist context. It raises important considerations pertaining to the perpetuation of prefigurative experiments, drawn from Auroville’s singular longevity and development trajectory, providing both theoretical and pragmatic insights into how communal utopian practice is enabled, challenged and sustained that are relevant for scholars and activists of prefigurative and utopian experiments alike.
The chapter outlines the key contribution of the book: an autoethnographic analysis of how communal utopian practice is enabled, challenged and sustained. It presents the overall structure of the book and the distinct theoretical and ethnographic foci of each chapter, distinguishing the research focus of this work from that of intentional community scholarship in general given that the latter tends to be limited to understanding and analysing alternative practices, rather than the processes that give life to these. The chapter introduces the intentional community of Auroville, its founding period and its development, challenges and achievements, and presents the community’s endemic understandings and practices of research. It discusses the author’s positionality as a native scholar, her autoethnographic research methods and how these are uniquely leveraged to offer a rich analysis of the process of engaging in utopian practice in an intentional community context.
This chapter revisits key findings and concepts that emerge from this work, and their relevance for the development of alternative societies in general. One is that of spiritually prefigurative utopianism: that a spiritual quest can underly, strategically articulate and sustain an evolving utopian project that engages with the challenges of human society. Another is that of prefigurative utopian practice: that utopianism can be engaged with as an evolutionary process, rather than as an attempt to realize a predetermined blueprint, and that this can be enacted by both spiritual or a-spiritual groups. In view of Auroville’s unique trajectory of prefigurative institutionalization, the chapter posits that such institutionalization may be key to the perpetuation of prefigurative projects.