Korean women significantly celebrate March 8 International Women’s Day. On the occasion they dream of their future looking back on their past life. I went to see some women to know their world—they have different jobs, different characteristics and different careers.

An article by Kim Kwang Myong  

Successful Career

First, I visited the architectural college of the Pyongyang University of Architecture. There I met Chon Son Ok, chief of the architectural acoustics and illumination department. She said that she had done only what any woman could do in this country. When I said that it would not be so easy to make such a success as she had in education and scientific research, she told me the following story.

Chon was born and spent her childhood in a remote mountain village in North Hamgyong Province. Her mother was a farm worker. Seeing her mother pose for a photograph which meritorious workers deserved, Chon made up her mind to be as famous as her mother when she grew up. With the decision, she worked hard at her studies during her primary and middle school days. She was often praised by her schoolmates for her genius in mathematics. And yet, when she was satisfied with the solution of difficult problems no one else could do, her teacher often scolded her that she had chosen a difficult way of solving. Since then she was accustomed to choosing an accurate and fastest way in whatever she did.

Chon Son Ok (second left), department chief of the architectural college of the Pyongyang University of Architecture.

Chon Son Ok (second left), department chief of the architectural college of the Pyongyang University of Architecture.

When she enrolled at Kim Il Sung University and then taught at the Pyongyang University of Architecture, she always kept her opinion. In the 1990s she attracted all people with her new Monte Carlo-style simulation of indoor illumination. Based on her theory and practical experience, she promptly carried out the tasks of making the best of architectural space and improving the illumination of exhibits at the International Friendship Exhibition House. She has worked for a large number of structures including the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre and the North Hwanghae Province Art Theatre developing acoustics and illumination. Over the years she became a Merited Scientist, professor and doctor. She moved to a new apartment in the Mirae Scientists Street.

“It would be difficult to make such a successful career as you have made. You’ve been widely introduced by the TV, newspapers and radio, and you have won academic degrees and titles and received official commendations,” I said. Then, she said, “Women are playing a due role in occupying the world of science. I am one of those women.”

She has two daughters, who are exerting themselves in scientific research.

Servant of People

It was difficult to have a talk with the chairwoman of the Pothonggang District People’s Committee, as I had expected. It was no use waiting for her in her office. Thus, I decided to chase after her. Hearing that she had gone to see a war veteran in Ryugyong-dong No. 1, I went there in haste. The veteran told me that the chairperson visited him early every morning and inquired about his health and living conditions. He went on to say that he waited for her more anxiously than his own children. Then, he informed me that the chairperson had left to inspect a provisions supply station, a water purification station and a fuel base worrying about the supply of food, water and fuel to citizens in her district.

Ryu Sun (second left), chairwoman of the Pothonggang District People’s Committee.

Ryu Sun (second left), chairwoman of the Pothonggang District People’s Committee.

On my way after the chairperson, I came to know that she had tried hard to supply cleaner water to inhabitants in Ragwon-dong in 2014—she completed a project of laying thousands of metres of water pipe, set up tens of pumping stations and changed old transformers and motors with new ones relying on the district administration’s efforts. Straight and wide roads, street trees, big and small parks, Kimchi factory, a paper mill and a foodstuff factory are all associated with her effort. So are the district People’s Hospital, clinics and service establishments including the Undok House. A cage net fish farm was built in the Pothong River and a mushroom farm was set up to give benefit to citizens. The chairperson arranged a wedding ceremony for a special-class disabled soldier with parental care and gave priority to improvement of educational and living conditions of primary and middle schools, kindergartens and nurseries.

At last I found the chairperson walking to the Pothonggang Sports Park on the Pothong riverside lined with trees. Some park keepers told me that the chairperson often looked round the volleyball playground, the tennis court and children’s roller-skating ground so as to make sure there was nothing inconvenient about mass-based sports activities. They added that she was no inferior to men in drive, ability, courage and initiative.

There I could have a small talk with her. She was open-hearted. When I said that she had done a lot of things she said simply and clearly, “You know I am responsible for the livelihood of the people, and I’m a servant of the people.”

Her name is Ryu Sun, and she is a deputy to the Pyongyang Municipal People’s Assembly.

Twin Silk Reelers

I visited the Pyongyang Kim Jong Suk Silk Mill on hearing a story about twin young silk reelers. When I met them I knew they were of different ages and from different families and places. They were Kim Jong Hyang and Pak Il Ju. I asked how it was that they were called twins, when they replied bashfully, “We share the same mind.”

Kim Jong Hyang (right) and Pak Il Ju are well-known innovative workers.

Kim Jong Hyang (right) and Pak Il Ju are well-known innovative workers.

I noticed that they were exactly the same at work—connecting broken silk thread at reeling machines. Looking at them working hard and assiduously, I could guess that they were fiercely competitive. Il Ju said that she worked hard to overtake Jong Hyang who was an innovative model worker and Jong Hyang said she was determined to look after more spindles so that she would not fall behind Il Ju. They were really competitive at work although they were close friends out of work.

When I asked them about their achievement they said that they overfulfilled their annual assignment in 2012 and 2013. I knew they had been honoured to take part in national conferences for their good work and to address the meetings. And they were admitted to the Workers’ Party of Korea at the same time.

In June last year Jong Hyang had the honour of meeting Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un on his inspection of the mill. That day she spent a sleepless night. Kim and Pak made up their mind together to work harder. When I said that I had seen at the entrance of the factory a photo in which they stood together after fulfilling their annual assignment last year, they said, “Our practice is the same, as well.”