On “8.3 couples”

A recent story in the Donga-Ilbo asserts that prostitution and other forms of “adult business” are on the rise in the DPRK. Of course the article mentions neither when this specific trend became noticeable (from last year or from five years ago) nor does it mention the locality or magnitude of the trend.  Of course the claim is impossible to determine with any precision since such comprehensive time-series data is not available from the DPRK.  We do not even have good data on prostitution arrests, which would certainly understate the actual size of the industry. I believe it is fair to assume from the abundance of open sources, however, that prostitution has increased significantly in the DPRK since the arrival of the Arduous March.

Though we do not have any hard data, an interesting anecdote in the Donga-Ilbo  story (which I believe might be true) points not only to a general unofficial public acknowledgement of prostitution, but also shows a “North Korean sense of humor” about the situation:

Rumors say the term “8/3 couple,” meaning people engaged in extramarital affairs, is spreading widely. 8/3 refers to the day in August 1984, when then North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong Il instructed authorities “to use by-products from factories or workplaces to produce daily necessities for people.” The term is changed to sarcastically mean “pseudo” and “fake.”

From the interviews I have done with North Korean defectors, I have learned that “8.3” references are a “common” put-down…meaning either “fake” or “low-quality”. It is entirely plausible to me that this term has made the transition to categorizing the prostitution industry as well.

You can read the full story here:
N. Korean women turning to prostitution, porn to earn money
Donga-Ilbo
2011-10-10

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