‘It’s all about self-reliance’: North Korean Adolescents’ Menstruation Experiences and Management


  • Curie Lee Dwight School Seoul
  • Alan Bairner Loughborough University




North Korea, North Korean defector women, Adolescents, Menstruation, Hygiene, Health


In low-income countries such as North Korea, adolescents experience a decreased quality of schooling and health as a result of poor menstrual health management. The purpose of this study was to explore menstrual health management among North Korean adolescents through interviews with North Korean defector women who have settled in South Korea. Semi-structured interviews with seven participants were conducted from November 2021 to January 2022. The findings showed that North Korean adolescents lacked knowledge of menarche and that menstruation was merely perceived to be a bodily excretion. Moreover, North Korean adolescents received little or no support from their families or society during menstruation. The bodies of male and female students were not differentiated, resulting in female adolescents becoming desensitised to the physical and mental pain of menstruation. Furthermore, the participants recalled resorting to suboptimal alternatives to hygiene products and inappropriate menstrual practices. The findings suggest that it may take a long time to address menstrual poverty among North Korean adolescents and that measures to strengthen human rights for North Korean adolescents’ health should be prepared at an international level. Improved education for North Korean youth and active support from parents and teachers regarding menstrual practices are also necessary.


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Author Biography

Alan Bairner, Loughborough University


References or Bibliography

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How to Cite

Lee, C., & Bairner, A. (2022). ‘It’s all about self-reliance’: North Korean Adolescents’ Menstruation Experiences and Management. Journal of Student Research, 11(2). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v11i2.2552



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