Matchmakers help North Korean elite say “I do” to the rich

A wedding party at a restaurant on Changjon Street in Pyongyang. Image: Yonhap News Agency 

Marriage brokers can be found in many countries of the world and act as professional matchmakers who facilitate the introduction of suitable partners and guide their clients through the process until the marriage is official. The services offered by brokers have recently appeared in North Korea, report inside sources.

“More and more residents are paying keen attention towards creating a better future for their children, which has been driving up demand for matchmakers. They’re mostly active in wealthier neighborhoods, like those where cadres live,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on July 12.

According to the source, the brokerage fee received by the matchmaker depends on the target of the client’s desire. The rates vary greatly depending on the wealth of the person in question, with the most common price point involving each side paying 1,000 yuan (approx U.S. $150).  

The children of donju (North Korea’s nouveau riche) are particularly high-value clients for the matchmakers. Perhaps contrary to expectations, cadres with sons tend to pick daughters from wealthy families who are active market traders.  

The unusual aspect of this is that the bride’s family are often willing to agree to the arrangements. A suitable match doesn’t necessarily require large amounts of money, with the reasoning being that a good character will be helpful in getting the daughter to become a cadre.

“These days, matchmakers are putting together daughters from donju families and sons from cadre families. The broker satisfies the demands of both sides in this way,’ a source from South Pyongan Province said.

“A little while ago, there was a wedding at a cadre family’s home in Hyesan City, and their son was marrying a daughter from a market ‘kingpin’ household (a family with proficient market experience),” a source from Ryanggang Province added.  

There are also matchmaker services for ordinary residents, who focus on clients from the local neighborhood. These providers do not usually receive money, but if the match results in a marriage, they are invited to the dinner reception.  

While expert professional marriage brokers are appearing in North Korea, the number of “love marriages” is also slightly on the rise.

“In cases where the children of cadre and donju parents do not get along, the matchmaker sometimes intercedes, but there are also disagreements. In some instances where the antipathy is strong, some prospective clients have run away,” the South Pyongan Province-based source said.