Archive for the ‘Dating/Courting’ Category

North Korean Citizens Are Differentiated into Six-Levels

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Daily NK
Lee Kwang Baek

The expansion of Jangmadang’s private economy

Several years ago, I met a defector from North Korea and is currently residing in Japan. He frequently meets people coming and going from North Korea.

The change he relayed regarding North Korea was interesting and vivid. Although hundreds of people are not dying from starvation as in the past, transformation brought about by the expansion of the private economy, such as the Jangmadang (markets).

I asked him what the most significant change in North Korea was after the mass starvation of the mid-90s.

It was the reorganization of North Korean society’s class system. According to him, there are currently six levels of classes forming in North Korea.

First is the top privileged class based on Kim Jong Il. It is the class that feeds and lives on Kim Jong Il’s administrative funds, all kinds of support coming in from South Korea, and extractions from civilians.

The second is the power class engaging in the area of foreign currency earning activity. A portion of money gained from the foreign currency earning business is offered to the Kim Jong Il regime and the rest are accumulated as their own wealth.

The third is the “moneybag” class who has earned money from exchanges with the products from Jangmadang and China. They use “violence” and “money,” like the Russian mafia, to secure the commercial rights of each region via the Jangmadang.

The fourth is the class whose sustenance depends on provisions. It can be deduced that people in the middle-class take up approximately 20~30% of the civilian population.

The fifth is the common class who depend on Jangmadang and individual patches. Approximately 60% of the total population falls into this class. They live day to day on their labor power.

The lowest class is the elderly, the handicapped, Kotjebi (begging children), city migrants, and diseased patients.

The most outstanding class is the 5th class. They are a class who has started living independently without depending on the Kim Jong Il regime and counts as 60% of the population.

South Korean administration believes that there is a need to seek a North Korean policy while considering the size and characteristics of the lower class.

That is, direct support or loans to the North Korean government should be reduced and a direct commercial transaction with North Korean citizens should be increased. Gradually, Kim Jong Il regime’s political position should be weakened and the status of self-sufficient lower-class citizens have to be elevated. This can become an important foundation for North Korean society’s move towards a market economy.

The second eye-catching element is the most venerable people in the lower class. Approximately 10% of people who fall under this class are humanitarian aid recipients of our government and international society. The latter two have steadily continued their support to them.

Despite this, according to a recent North Korean source, a significant amount of people are suffering from malnutrition among those who have been admitted to hospitals, long term reeducation camps, and concentration camps for beggar children. Why are such events occurring?

The defector said that when the rice that the South Korean government sends arrives at the North Korean harbor, North Korean authorities or organizations immediately sell them for money.

Similar testimonies have come forth from North Korean civilians. Rice which is sold at the harbor can only be bought with foreign currency. People who can purchase rice by paying foreign currency are “moneybags” for a portion of bureaucrats who have accumulated wealth. Moneybags and corrupt officials hand over this rice to the Jangmadang and collect the enormous balance.

The humanitarian aid provided by the outside, before they are even relayed to the lowest class who should be receiving support, are flowing into the hands of moneybags and corrupt bureaucrats. If such defectors’ testimonies are true, the South Korean government’s humanitarian rice support has lost its original function.

The solution regarding this is two-fold. First is directly relaying medical products and rice to North Korea’s lowest class. Through civilian and organizational efforts, a humanitarian support team jointly based on South Korean civilians and government should be formed and they should initiate humanitarian aid activity by directly going into North Korea.

Further, a large-sized South Korean humanitarian support activity inspection team should observe the activities of the North Korean Red Cross and raise the transparency of distribution. If this is difficult, there is a need to simplify the window through the support of international society whose monitoring is much ahead of our government’s monitoring of formality.

The government should urgently restore the original capacity of humanitarian support in order to avoid falling into a policy of failure geared only towards a dictatorship regime.


North Korean Teenagers’ Drinking & Dating during the Farm Supporting Activity

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Daily NK
Kim Min Se

The ethics of youth regarding sex has always been a noticeable issue in all societies. It is the same in North Korea. The fear of the youth misdemeanor is worried by both South and North Koreas.

The North Korean defectors claim that the most frequently asked question since they’ve been here was whether North Korean youth also dated.

North Korea is a place with people as well. Like all other societies, personal problems of love, hate, conflicts and atonement exist. However, due to the restriction of freedom, there is also limitation on human relationships that cannot be made single-handedly.

The North Korean youth also date. While it was forbidden to date back in the 1960s and 1970s, with the changing era, the restriction on dating has disappeared as well.

According to the North Korean defectors, the trend of dating by the youth has initiated in the main cities of North Korea from the late 1980s.

The normalization of the teenagers’ dating was from the 1990s. The coeducational school became the wildfire that incurred the trend of public dating for all middle school students in North Korea.

The differentiation of girls and boys school was changed by the single statement of Kim Il Sung.

“It is quite distressing that there is a barrier between North and South, why should we have a barrier between men and women,” encouraging all differentiation of gender to disappear in all schools nationwide. Hence then, the official names of differentiating gender on official school names have disappeared.

According to a North Korean defector Park Myung Gil (pseudonym), “In middle school, in the age of 16, it is very important for students to have a girlfriend and also participate in the gang fight.” Unless you were stupid, these two things were very important for all students.” 1990s was an era where gang fights between schools and villages were rampant.

Month-long Farm Supporting Activity Is another Factor

Park stated that, “When we go onto farm supporting activity, it is easier for us to date the female students. The fellow students would pay a visit to the dormitory of the girl until she said yes.”

Middle school students in the age range of 14 to 15 go out to the field to help farming. They go out for 40 days in spring and 15-20 days in the autumn to participate for the farm supporting activity. It is during this phase that they learn how to smoke and drink.

They gather around to drink and smoke after their fieldwork is over at night time. When you don’t participate in this night gathering, you become isolated and rejected from the crowd. Although this is supposedly done in secrecy, the teachers, even when they are aware of this, turn a blind eye to the students.

While there are many similarities between the North and the South Korean students, there are also many differences. The North Korean students drink with their teachers. They usually take a bottle of alcohol to their students and drink with them out of good will. While it is hard to imagine such things happening in South Korea, the students do not get in trouble for drinking in North Korea.

When these students participate in the long term farm supporting activity, there are accidents that follow. There are many cases of female students’ impregnation after their field-work term.

The current teenagers of North Korea are surely much more free and independent. As a result of China-North Korea trade, with the influx of cheap VCR disseminated nationwide, this would play a crucial role in liberalizing the minds of these youth. However, the sentiments felt by their parents, regardless of that be North or South, must be along the line of anxiety and worry.


Strict Regulation of Underage Prostitution

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

The “Good Friends” reported on the 12th that there has been an arrest of North Korean women who had jumped into the act of prostitution to support their family.

According to the newsletter published by Good Friends, “There was a nation-wide inspection, while there were regular evaluation meetings in the early September. This is when a large sum of the women in the prostitution business were arrested.”

According to the Good Friends, “Most of these women received a sentence of 3 years were sent to Jeungsang, South Pyongan to the labor-detention facility. Most of these women were from poor families who were talked into prostituting themselves by their mothers to supporting their family.”

The arrested women argued that, “If there were more jobs, salary or even rationing, who in their right mind would do such things for a living?”

The newsletter revealed that, “With the worsening shortage of food the number of underage prostitution has been on the rise. In Wonsan, Kangwon province, restaurants were found with rooms on the underground level in which a large group of underage children were forced into be in the activity of prostitution.”

“The seven restaurant owners and managers were sentenced to execution by a firing squad and the 40 underage children that were involved in the prostitution are currently in jail receiving indoctrination.”

The newsletter revealed that, “With the strict inspections being processed per district, the North Korean government is putting a stricter surveillance on prostitution, infiltration and drug smuggling. Last week at Hwoireong, one drug smuggler was executed in public.”

In addition, the newsletter also revealed that there is a shortage of necessities in North Korea nationwide due to the huge flood this summer.

In North Hamkyung province, the civilians are lacking three crucial necessities: rice, water and electricity.

“Due to the paralysis of transportation methods in North Hamkyung, they are not even able to receive the minimum supply for flood victims. Other regions are able to receive the partial amount of the supply for flood victims given by the South, but North Hamkyung is suffering the most out of all provinces.”

There has been a continuance of water shortage in Shinuiju since July.

The newsletter stated that, “There has not been a single drop of water in the entire city of Shinuiju. Only after September 9 were the civilians able to receive some tap water, but the tap water supply only runs from 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. for one hour.”

“The people in Shinuiju are not able to go to sleep because they are waiting to receive the water. The electricity is provided for five hours each day, but due to the low electric pressure, they are not even able to use the water pump.”


Pyongyang Vice: Tale of Veteran-Students

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Daily NK
Park Choel Yong

Army Veterans in North Korea can have bright futures once accepted into college. In North Korea, serving in the Armed Forces, party membership, and college diplomas are three main keys for success.

However, a Veteran matriculate is not necessarily awarded with a diploma after four years.

Veteran-students without money or parental auspice would have to suffer turbulent years leading up till graduation.

First of all, most of them acknowledge that they are too old to study ardently (since veterans have spent at least seven to eight years in the Armed Forces); therefore, Veteran-students do not hesitate to take shortcuts.

Every North Korean university/college is organized as if it were a military academy. In this semi-military college student environment, Veterans usually take an officer role and often take advantage of their position, taking bribes from other students.

As another vice, some Veteran-students commit adultery while in college. An ex-serviceman studying in college and communist party members are the most eligible bachelors in North Korea. Many rich parents encourage their daughters to marry with collegiate Veterans.

Exploiting their popularity, some Veterans have wives to support in their hometowns, but engage with another woman in Pyongyang. Some even divorce their under-educated and less-privileged wives to marry their mistresses.

Often times, a divorced wife of a Veteran-student will come to the college in Pyongyang and seek help at the party office.

Some Veteran-students boast “There is a nice way to shut them (divorced wives) up!” The ‘way’ is demanding huge sums of money from the parents-in-law. The wife’s parents will be shocked, will tire of the petition, and eventually, the call for divorce will come from the other side.

A Veteran-student from my college never let his wife leave his hometown to visit him in Pyongyang because she was too rustic.

An additional area of concern is that Veteran-students frequently instigate fist fights.

The Veterans, who sweat and bled on the drill field, can not allow other students to regard themselves as being in the same class. So they bully other students into revering them, and often fight with those who refuse to do so.

At other times, these Veteran-students will provoke quarrels with police or traffic officers.

Their fighting ability ranks top, but academically, they are pitiful; yet they make no efforts to overcome the disadvantage.

Veteran-students learn how to exploit a situation. And as soon as they are appointed as party leaders after graduation from college, ex-servicemen tend to pursue power and money by preying on their subordinates.

North Korean people used to call American imperialists “wolves” (a very derogatory term). However, more people now have begun to redirect the term toward party officials, who were once Veteran-students themselves.


The Keyword for the Best Husbands Is “Foreign”

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Daily NK
Park Choel Yong

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.