Most of the information is familiar to long-time DPRK watchers, though there were a few nuggets of information I had not heard before. Around 2,000 western tourists visited last year, plus perhaps 10 times as many Chinese visitors.I have posted these below: But who knew that The Da Vinci Code was a hit in this strictly controlled city? Or that the mass performances are not only a tribute to the leadership and motherland, but the way that many young people find partners? The expatriate population, excluding Chinese and Russian diplomats, and including children, stands at 150. There are certainly signs of change here: Air Koryo has new planes and three gleaming airport buses to ferry passengers from runway to terminal.

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It’s not clear whether this practice is legal, although it is widespread. Each young man spends a decade in the army on compulsory military service, for which he may earn a nominal salary and dwindling food supplies. Recently, Daily NK obtained a copy of the October issue of monthly magazine ‘Socialist Cultural Life’, to which social studies scholar Jang Seong Nam submitted a piece, ‘Let’s Perform Kwanhonsangje the Socialist Way’, in which he declared, “kwanhonsangje should be performed according to the demands of the Party and social development.” The article emphasized, “We are taking the lead, seeing kwanhonsangje performed in the socialist way as a valid and unavoidable problem in the establishment of the new military-first socialist life.” “Because old, feudalist, superstitious, empty formalities and bizarre foreign customs are not disappearing, we are strongly demanding action on this problem,” it went on, adding, “Rejecting bizarre foreign customs crushes the Imperialists’ policy of ethnic extermination under the banner of ‘globalization’.” The article also looked in more detail at problem issues surrounding kwanhonsangjae.

Anecdotally, the women hint that they often are the ones to decide whether their husband’s skills are actually worth paying such sums of money. “I don’t know if you can call it power, but women do what men can’t do, so we can speak louder now,” she says. The men are then sent to a job in a state-run work unit, which — strapped for cash — doesn’t necessarily pay wages any more. The extra burden women carry is beginning to have social consequences, with young women hoping to delay marriage to avoid taking on a husband. “A sufficient engagement,” it proclaimed, “has two people and their parents meeting to confirm the marriage, and wedding ceremonies should be a gathering at someone’s home.” Regarding funeral arrangements and ancestral rites, it recommended, “Commemorate a death by placing a medal or honorary certificate before an image of the deceased along with flowers, while the various commemorative services on the 3rd day or the birthday of the deceased should be eliminated.” Getting into minutae, it added of a groom’s suit color, “Discard the convention of wearing a black or dark blue suit; men should wear bright colors according to season.” In these ways, the article asserted, kwanhonsangjae becomes an aesthetic and modern set of customs with a uniquely Chosun ethnic color.

“Young women are avoiding marriage or opt for informal cohabitation.

And an increasing number of women are choosing younger men so that they can have more control in the relationship.” One female North Korean defector in her 30s said, “Even if the authorities tell people not to, men are living with women who are five or six years older, because these women have experience making ends meet.” The number of divorces initiated by women is on the rise as well.

Every minute of the day is spent figuring out how to feed her family, including an adult son and daughter whose state-run jobs do not provide enough to live on.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s men still remain tied to the country’s moribund state-run institutions.

The regime is threatening to expel divorcees, but to no avail.

“North Koreans don’t take warnings from the regime seriously because they believe that there is no need to report marriage or divorce to the government,” Park said.

“Recently an increasing number of people don’t bother to register their partnership and just go their separate ways after a few months or years if they want.” A recent story in the Donga-Ilbo asserts that prostitution and other forms of “adult business” are on the rise in the DPRK.