Divorce in North Korea?

Wednesday 26th December, 2012

North Korea

North Koreans of today generally see divorce as an acceptable outcome of marriage. Although divorce in North Korea is not explicitly forbidden, it occurred very rarely until recently because it was systematically discouraged: it was impossible for a divorced North Korean to be accepted as a member of the Workers’ Party or to be employed in an official capacity.

Moreover, due to the rigid nature of North Korean society, a divorce could not be obtained without bribery at each step of the way. Yet with increasing numbers of unhappy marriages ending in murder, a divorce in North Korea can now be completed in around 3 months. To put this number in context, one North Korean defector residing in Daejeon, South Korea, told us it had taken 5 years to legalize his divorce, even after a lot of bribes.

What is the leading cause for divorce in North Korea? According to North Korea’s family law, divorce may only be granted in the case of adultery or the death of a partner. Irreconcilable differences or evidence of domestic violence are not regarded as grounds for divorce.

Perhaps this is why the most commonly cited reason for divorce in North Korea is infertility. Couples who wish to divorce for other reasons file for divorce on these grounds, which do not explicitly contradict any aspect of North Korean family law. It helps that ‘evidence’ for infertility can be easily obtained through bribing medical workers.

Significantly, many younger North Koreans are adopting a ‘foreign worldview’ towards divorce, viewing it as a convenient way out of loveless marriages. However, this appears to be yet another symptom of the growing divide between North Korean state ideology and the reality of life in North Korea.

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