First wedding picture
When Michael dropped me off at LAX to catch my flight, I told him that my mind was a blank slate about North Korea. I was willing to be impressed, bullied or disappointed; but one thing I knew, I said, was that I wouldn’t take seriously wedding couples wandering about in pretty places because, according to the author Barbara Demick, those weddings are staged. They are no more than a photo opp for tourists.
I think this may not be true. These weddings seem genuine to me.
In North Korea, you don’t need government approval to get married (my main sources of information on this are my two married guides). Rather, the two families get together and decide on a day convenient for everyone. There is no stigma about particular days of the week or of the month, but April being the month of blooms, there tends to be more weddings that month.
So, what’s a wedding day like? The party is at night, with as much food and alcohol as possible. But the day will have started early, with the couple and close family and/or friends going around town to all the main spots to be seen, pay homage and have their picture taken. If you get married in Kaesong, you want to go to a pretty park, and the Koryo Museum grounds are as pretty as they come. And sometimes there are foreigners walking around, willing to have their picture taken with you, which makes things infinitely more interesting for the wedding party. So, actually, this couple asked me for the honor of the picture, not vice versa. I obliged and got an invitation for the night festivities in return. It seems, though, that I wasn’t able to accept it, as returning to Pyongyang was what the itinerary called for <sigh>.