North Koreans using mobile matchmaking services

North Koreans peruse cell phones on offer
North Koreans peruse cell phones on offer. Image: Sogwang

Matchmaking services can now be accessed by North Korean cell phone users seeking romance. Usage fees for the service are processed with “mobile money,” a phone-based credit payment system.

“In North Korea’s larger cities, phone-based matchmaking services that set up dates for men and women are appearing and they’re gaining a lot of traction among younger people. The phenomenon began to emerge after the introduction of mobile phone credits which can be used to make payments,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK.

Matchmaking services for the amorous existed in the past, but the newer business model involves specialists who maintain databases of men and women. The specialists provide a suitable partner match based on each client’s preferences.

“Those who are looking for a date can charge phone credits and send these so-called ‘mobile money (credits)’ to a matchmaker who will set up a date based on the client’s preferences,” explained the source.

In North Korea, such phone credits can be reloaded by making a cash payment to vendors at the market. Daily NK found in a recent investigation that these phone credits are becoming increasingly popular for wire transfers and payments.

The so-called “mobile money” is essentially a type of virtual currency in North Korea and can be exchanged for cash.

“If you want to use a matchmaking service, you have to pay first. After making a payment, you text the matchmaker with what you are looking for in a partner, including appearance, fitness, job, family background and assets,” said the source. Matchmaking service fees increase depending on the client’s requests, but cost a minimum of 30 USD.

In some cases, matchmakers specially create lists with photos of their clients and personal information. These lists are then sent to wealthier clients to browse.

The rise of the matchmaking industry in North Korea may be connected to social changes that are taking place in the country. In the past, dating and marriages were often arranged by workplaces and government agencies, reflecting the party’s view of an ideal family.

“The emergence of professional matchmakers providing dating services for young men and women reflects North Korean society becoming more open towards dating. The increase in marriages of romance can be seen in a similar context,” said a defector from Ryanggang Province, who defected in 2014.

A separate South Pyongan Province-based source added, “The Workers’ Party’s demand for a revolutionary date and marriage no longer works for young people. Instead, they turn to mobile matchmaking because they can easily meet or break off engagements with partners.”

*Translated by Yongmin Lee

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