Why North Koreans Wear Old Shoes in Wedding Ceremony

Daily NK
Kang Jae Hyok

As spring is ripe, so are engaged couples. Not only in South Korea but also in the North, spring is a season of marriage. Yet ceremonies differ.

In North Korea, wedding ceremonies takes place in both houses of the bride and the bridegroom. Occasionally, rich couples rent a ceremony hall, common practice in Seoul.

In South Korea, all the guests come to wish the newly-weds a bright future. Undoubtedly, formally dressed. However, most North Koreans visit wedding ceremonies wearing regular dress.

The biggest difference is shoes. In both Koreas, it is customary to take off shoes before entering house and since wedding ceremonies in North Korea occur inside someone’s house, it is possible to lose ones shoes. Especially if well-wishers get drunk after the party or simply that too many visitors come to celebrate in a crowded house, shoes are often lost or as they say ‘confused’ in the case the shoes are of good quality.

So North Koreans do not wear nice shoes when visiting a wedding ceremony. Even slippers are worn.

This habit has trailed down to South Korea, for those who defected and came to Seoul. At Hanawon, an education facility for new-defectors into South Korea, instructors teach defectors to wear smart dress attire and formal shoes while attending wedding ceremonies.

An instructor who taught me at Hanawon told his personal story. When he was invited to a defector’s wedding ceremony, he saw several visitors wearing slippers, all of them were fellow defectors. When asked why, they answered that it was their habit from North Korea.

Such minor mistakes might cause others who do not understand North Korean customary habits unpleasant or even nervous. Thus, the instructor asked us, the defectors, to always dress formally at special ceremonies.


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