Various news outlets report that North Korea is lifting its ban on women wearing pants in public, which was reportedly punishable by hard labor or a fine equal to a week’s salary. The lifting of the ban would certainly seem to be in the spirit of Article 71 of the North Korean constitution, which provides that “women shall be entitled to the same social status and rights as men.” Sadly, however, the reports do not indicate whether North Korea is also lifting its ban on women riding bicycles, or if that would constitute an unconstitutional “cultural infiltration of imperialism” (Article 41).
When it comes to some parts of the world, like North Korea, there is a tendency to take it for granted that constitutions *don’t* matter; when it comes to other parts of the world, like [insert the name of your country here; presumably not China, because this blog is blocked there], there is a tendency to take it for granted that constitutions *do* matter. (In my experience, this is often the point in the conversation where someone mumbles something about “independent courts” and “judicial review” then tries to change the topic to something normative.) But this little vignette suggests that there may be one way in which constitutionalism in North Korea is perhaps not so different from constitutionalism elsewhere: for every textualist constitutional argument, there’s usually a textualist counterargument.