The Keyword for the Best Husbands Is “Foreign”

Daily NK
Park Choel Yong
7/16/2007

In Chosun (North Korea), free dating between male and female students is prevented during middle school years and even in college. If an unmarried man and woman are walking down the street arm in arm, then they have to worry about the glare of passersby. However, marriage from dating is a gradually increasing trend, but most of the time, people marry through arranged marriages.

Before the period of the food shortage before 1990, the best husband material was males who “had joined a party, performed military service, and graduated from college.” However, since 2000, a huge shift has taken place in the mentality of people.

Lately, three levels of husbands have been common. The first level is males who are included in the following three categories: those who frequently go abroad, those attend foreign-currency earning companies, and those who have high possibility of going abroad.

The second level is those who have parents who are high-ranked leaders or come from a wealthy background. The third level is those whose parents do not have power, but as individuals, are smart enough to finish military service, join the party, are able to support themselves through college.

Males, who are not classified in these categories, select as spouses females who belong to similar categories. However, even if the classes are divided as such, males who earn a lot of money are inevitably the most popular.

The candidates for No.5 Department of the Party are special-grade women

If one looks at the basis for which brides are chosen in Pyongyang, the first level are those whose parents have power and come from an affluent family. Nowadays, there are provincial men who, thanks to the spouses’ family, who succeed by achieving the status of a Pyongyang citizen.

The second level is female college graduates, whose parents may not have authority, but the individual is smart and can make a living by herself. Of course, a woman cannot do better than graduate from Kim Il Sung University, Pyongyang Foreign Language University, or Pyongyang Medical College. Historically and now, women who graduate from the College of Education can work as a teacher is still an admirable bride material.

The third level is those whose parents do not have power, the household is not too affluent, and the woman did not graduate from college, but she has a strong will of survival so can conduct business well. In Chosun nowadays, women who cannot do business are not popular among the men.

However, above power, education level, and money, is a class which is counted as a special level of women among all the men. They are those whose appearances are superior that they are selected into the No.5 Department of the Party, or are actors, dancers, or singers. The No.5 Department’s females work as phone operators or as Gippeumjo (pleasure-givers, special entertainers just for high-ranking officials) of high-level leaders and should quit once they reach 25. Afterwards, they are acceded to the party, are married to military commanders of the Escort Bureau or party leaders, and enter married life and a house which have been prepared for them.

The No.5 Department of the Party is a division, which is charge of Kim Il Sung’s food, clothing, and shelter and every aspect of his private life.

A refined marriage of mutual exchange of vows and pouring drinks at home

Once the marriage partner is selected, the parents select the date of the engagement ceremony. There are differences by province, but as a whole, the groom’s side of the family prepare deok (rice cakes) and food on the day of the ceremony and go to the bride’s home. On engagement day, the parents choose the wedding date.

The wedding clothes do not require a large sum of money. The men wear suits and women can prepare traditional Chosun dresses.

Japanese-Koreans who have returned to Pyongyang wear Western-style wedding clothes, which are rarely seen, and marry. In the past, Chosun period receptions and wedding attires, invoking the national tradition, were popular, but recently, they have completely disappeared.

The wedding is first conducted at the bride’s house. The wedding itself is the exchange of Korean drink glasses at the feast table and after the exchange of bows, the ceremony ends by pouring the drinks to both sides of parents and giving bows. Then, on the next day, the party leaves for the groom’s house. There, the same ceremony is conducted. Three days later, food is prepared and the bribe’s house visits take place.

In big cities such as Pyongyang, large-scale weddings can take place. First of all, cars that are brought to the wedding vary. In Chosun, it is not easy to acquire cars, but people choose high-scale cars anyways. In the house of upper-level leaders, several cars are mobilized.

For wedding photos, the Mansudae Arts Theater is the Best

Post the wedding ceremony, people ride rented cars and offer flowers and take ceremonial photos at the Kim Il Sung statue. They ride the car once more and take photos at various places and of statues in Pyongyang City.

The Party Foundation Commemorative Tower, the 5.1 Stadium, the Juche Ideology Tower, etc. are the major photo sites. There are political reasons for seeking out these sites, but they are also the most-decorated facilities in Pyongyang, so the pictures come out beautifully.

When one has a wedding, they have to report the marriage, carrying citizen registration cards, within a set time at the police station of jurisdiction. The bride and the groom, at this time, have to simultaneously read aloud the wedding oath.

The wedding oath pledges devotion to Kim Jong Il and as a cell of society, diligent leadership of the family, trust and reliance on each other, and walking the single path of revolution together.

In agricultural districts, the farmers do not even properly receive crops, so since they do not have anything to eat, they do not like going to the farm to work. However, the unmarried women, once they are engaged, are freed from going to the farm to work. Once there is an engagement ceremony, the woman is classified as a housewife who can receive 300 grams of provisions per day, so they are no longer required to go out to the farms and can wholly go into selling.

Thus, the young women in rural villages do not pay too much attention to the appearance or background of the grooms and in many cases, they become engaged as soon as they meet a man. Consequently, in the rural region, 19 or 20-year old married females are common. To them, marriage, which should be built on mutual love and faith, are considered as asylums for being freed from difficult labor.

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