Why are young North Koreans shunning marriage more than ever?

More women than men in the country are keen to delay or even abandon their marriage plans

Young people in the North Korean city of Chongjin are increasingly shunning marriage because they lack the financial security to start new lives in houses of their own, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Wednesday that many young people in the city are delaying or abandoning marriage altogether. The deepening of the country’s economic difficulties have forced many young people to give up hope of getting places of their own, she said, noting that young North Koreans prioritize finding a home when they get married these days. 

One reason young couples desire their own homes stems from the discomfort created by living with family. When women live with their in-laws, they must take care of their parents-in-law as well as their husbands. Meanwhile, men who live with their in-laws must endure cold stares and ridicule from their wives’ family as they engage in virtual unpaid labor (many North Korean workplaces fail to provide either rations or proper salaries). 

Consequently, many couples believe it is important to live in their own homes after marriage.

As recently as just a few years ago, however, many young people considered it natural to live with their in-laws after marriage. Nowadays, the younger generation is shunning marriage unless at least one partner has already secured a home or has the economic means to do so.

This kind of thinking is more pronounced in women than in men as wives must often take responsibility for supporting their families, the source said. 

All in all, many young people now avoid rushing to get married until they have attained certain conditions such as acquiring a home.

One young woman in her 20s living in Chongjin told Daily NK that getting married without a separate home was just asking for trouble. She said there is “no point in marrying and taking responsibility for your in-laws when providing for yourself is already tough enough.”

Daily NK also talked to a man in his 30s who, despite getting married in 2019, had lived in a single-room home with his parents. He recently moved into a rental room with his wife that costs RMB 300 (around USD 44) a month, believing he “could live comfortably if he moved out, even if this meant having to survive on porridge.”

While North Korea’s economic troubles are the biggest reason why young North Koreans are delaying or shunning marriage, pop culture that has made its way into the country from South Korea is also having an impact on their thinking. 

“Young people who have seen films or dramas from South Korea end up wanting to live in spaces of their own,” the source explained.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.