Solar panels are changing N. Korea’s traditional wedding gifts

Gifting expensive electronics and household appliances has become a way for families to show off their wealth

North Korea solar panels
Solar panels on North Korean houses / Image: KCNA

North Koreans increasingly use solar energy powered household appliances in their homes. Presenting brides with electric rice cookers, kettles or microwaves as wedding gifts has now become popular among North Koreans, Daily NK sources reported on Wednesday.

North Korean households are acquiring more electricity as an increasing number of homes are being equipped with solar panels. The panels can power gadgets with performance volumes between 50 and 250 watts, which include both low-volume devices as well as bigger appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines.

In line with this trend, electric rice cookers or kettles have become increasingly popular wedding presents. And there is more to it: “Times have changed since the early 2000s, when brides were still satisfied with a single electric rice cooker,” a source based in Ryanggang Province explained to Daily NK. “Households that sell goods will send two, three or even more electronic appliances as gifts for their daughters when they’re getting married.”

Another source from Pyongsong added: “Wealthier homes will acquire at least five kinds of high-quality devices such as mobile phones, refrigerators, LCD TVs, pots and fans for wedding gifts.”

“Depending on their preferences, they might also purchase electronic devices for beauty treatment – hair dryers and irons,” he said.

Daily NK sources furthermore estimate that the number of North Korean households equipped with high-volume solar panels has also increased. Such a 250 watt solar panel is said to cost over USD 200.

Due to their increased popularity, the prices of electronic gadgets, too, are rising each year. An electric rice cooker, for example, which sold for KPW 110,000 to 140,000 back in 2015, costs now between KPW 150,000 and 200,000. With a price of around KPW 550,000 to 600,000 on the black market, the South-Korean-made “Cuckoo rice cooker” is even more expensive.

“A small LCD TV will go for KPW 540,000. A medium-sized TV is in the range of KPW 1.5 million and large LCD TVs cost approximately KPW 2.5 million,” said a Daily NK source from the Sino-North Korean border region. According to him, “acquiring expensive electric appliances as wedding gifts has thus become a way for families to display their wealth.”

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger

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