Divorce Rate Is Skyrocketing for Economical Reasons

Daily NK
Yoon Il Geun

Good Friends, a Seoul-based relief organization said in its weekly report released on December 3rd, “The North frequently readjusts its resident registration project in Sinuiju. Nowadays, divorced couples are banished to other areas.”

Sinuiju situated near the Yalu River is the North’s gateway to China and second largest city after Pyongyang. The resident registration project has been strictly enforced in both cities. Individuals such as Prisoners of the Korean War and South Korean defectors to the North are not allowed to reside in these major cities.

In 1989, right before the North’s celebration of Pyongyang World Festival of Youth and Students, the North Korean authorities drove out those with a bad family background (based on its unique caste system) and the disabled out of Pyongyang. At that time, the authorities also banished divorced people to the outskirts of Pyongyang for the reason of their being ‘indecent.’

Lately, the divorce rate in the North is skyrocketing. More than 90 percent of divorce cases have to do with economical reasons. Many times, men fail to bring money home even if he has a job, and women are left alone to solely take care of child rearing and homemaking.

Usually, the North Korean courts do not decree divorces. When the divorce rate increases and becomes a serious social problem in the North, Kim Jong Il orders the courts not to decree divorces and the courts do not divorce people. If Kim Jong Il makes an order to expel divorced people to the provincial areas, his order is carried out as intended. In addition, divorced party cadres and administrative officials are either demoted or dismissed. Military officials, if divorced, are discharged. Divorced teachers must leave their schools. In the North, divorced people are believed to have a corrupt ideology.

Nevertheless, divorce is increasing particularly among the poor. Mostly, it has to do with economical reasons. As women engage themselves in business in the market, women’s power has increased whereas men are often considered to be good for nothing.

It is reported that women’s consciousness has changed especially in cities as foreign films and South Korean TV dramas are introduced to the North. A new way of thinking among women conflicts with men’s traditional male-oriented thinking. It is also reported that separation among married couples is increasing, and there are many young couples who do not register their marriages.

Moreover, the number of people, who bribe the courts to divorce their spouses, has greatly surged. It costs between 50,000 and 100,000 North Korean won to have judges issue a divorce certificate. The average wage among judges is 2,000 won. The amount is less than the worth of the US $1 dollar, which is sold around at 3,300 North Korean won in the market. Apparently, had it not been for bribes taking from divorce suitors, North Korean judges would not make their living.


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