North Korea is a militarized, male-dominated society, but it is women who are making the money as the insular nation allows an unofficial market-based economy to take shape.
Women earn more than 70 percent of household income in North Korea, mainly as traders in the informal markets that have proliferated in recent years, research by the South Korean government-run Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) found.
That is despite women making up only about half of the 12 million economically active North Koreans, experts say. Most men are stuck in state jobs that pay little or serve in the army.
"We North Koreans say men are fighting on the socialism front but women are fighting in the battle of life," said a 26-year-old surnamed Jung who fled to South Korea in 2012 and regularly sends money north to support her mother's grey-market business raising pigs and selling corn-based alcohol.
"There are no state provisions and my father has an unpaid job, which he must do almost as a duty," said Jung, a college student in Seoul who asked that her full name not be used to protect her family members still in the North.
Text: Ju-Min Park, Reuters
Image: Workers seen at the Kim Jong-suk Pyongyang Silk Mill in Pyongyang April 9 2012. The factory is named after the wife of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung and appears to employ women exclusively on the factory floor.
Images courtesy: Reuters