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Getting Married to Lose it All

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A Norwegian woman joins her brother on his honeymoon trip to North Korea

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I spoke with a friend who went to North Korea with me and is a photographer. Above is a photo he took on a second trip in 2015, his name is Alex Kühni.

The Experience

“My brother and sister-in-law had tied the knot a few days earlier in South Korea so it’s fair to say that I joined them on their honeymoon to North Korea. This country is mostly a caricature in the West so we wanted to get a closer look, even though we knew what they would show us would only be a façade.

The trip was incredibly interesting, a mix between showcasing and fiction. Nonetheless the most precious moments for me were those when I was able to establish contact with North Koreans. Once in the park, I danced to a traditional choreography with a group of teenagers. Without a word, we created a very strong bond.

However, our guides were much more informative on daily life. As a foreigner in North Korea, we are forced to have two guides, one female and one male. At least one of the two has to be a member of the party. We were very lucky with our guides because they were as curious of us as we were of them. It didn’t take me long to sit next to the woman when we traveled by bus and we ended up having many conversations about our lives and the lives of our friends. Thanks to her, I found out that the situation is very hard for women in North Korea. Not only are they faced with a demanding communist system, but when they marry, according to Confucianism, they become solely responsible for domestic chores and kids. Therefore they live under, not one, but two oppressive regimes.

What shocked me was that, according to my guide, Confucianism applied almost exclusively after marriage. Outside, girls seemed to have the same opportunities as boys in terms of studies. There was actually a majority of women in most of the prestigious careers like medicine and research. Nonetheless, the party is dominated by men. Other laws restrict women’s rights like for example the prohibition to ride a bike. What struck me most about this experience is the diversity in women’s oppressors. I know very well that they are present in every society and often single women are most susceptible to heightened constraints. In North Korea, it doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, single women are freer than their married counterparts. For my guide, the choice was easy: she will never get married!”

Who's Telling the Story?

Kirsten‘s family has lived in Norway for centuries. The are even direct descendants of a Viking king. When she was 14, they left for Australia and since then, she has traveled to 25 countries. She considers that the most valuable experience is to be able to dive into a culture for a long period of time. This is why she has lived in five countries over the past 10 years, and learned five new languages.

Place : North Korea
Date : 2011

What do You Think?

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How are single, married or widowed women viewed in your culture?

This experience questions you?

Come and discuss it with us at one of our gatherings!