Growing Disparity in Wedding Traditions

A growing polarization in wedding trends is
becoming more evident in North Korea due to the disparity between the rich and
poor. With wedding season approaching, a lot of couples are tying the knot, but
the differences in celebrations are stark, Daily NK has learned.

“During
spring, you can see a lot of couples holding weddings and receiving blessings
in their villages,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on March 26th. “Poor people
wear cheap hanbok [Korean traditional attire] from local markets in their
wedding photos, while couples part of the donju [new affluent middle class] spend 150 USD
on hanbok or western suits, and they even ride around in a Mercedes that they’ve
rented out for photo shoots.”

She added that the disparity is patent even
in their evening celebrations. Those from lower income families light candles and
entertain their guests in dimly lit rooms, whereas the rich pay dollars to
local power plants and sing with karaoke machines.

“The most that the average person can serve
their guests is a lot of rice cakes and Onban [pork broth with rice]. But the
rich order food and drinks from other countries with dollars and serve wine to
their guests,” the source said. “Sometimes, in order to make the wedding more
lively and fun, they hire professional singers and actors with dollars as well.”

Children of Party cadres or the donju pay
at least 100 USD to invite a professional singer or pianist on their weddings
or birthdays. Thanks to the rise in popularity of comedians in the recent
years, inviting them to events now costs even more than singers or pianists,
according to the source.

“This growing popularity of stand-up comedians
started when actor Lee Chun Hong from Pyongyang Laughter Theater was invited to do his act at a birthday party for the owner of Sinuiju Market,” she said, adding that after audio of the show was made available on CD, the popularity of stand-up comedians for events surged–by 2010, this popularity overshadowed that of musical acts.

There have been a few incidents wherein Party cadres have been removed from their posts for hosting such elaborate
Western-style weddings for their children, according to policies handed down
from the Central Party trying to crack down on corruption and ensuing
extravagance, according to the source. She added that children of cadres above the provincial Party level are said to have been holding simple weddings since, but that this practice is “all for show and extravagant weddings are still being carried out in secret. “

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