Ask a North Korean: Do North Koreans use dating apps like Tinder or OKCupid? | #tinder | #pof

“Ask a North Korean” is an NK News column penned by North Korean defectors, most of whom left the DPRK within the last few years. 

Readers may submit their questions to defectors by emailing [email protected] and including their first name and city of residence.

Today’s question is about whether there’s anything like Tinder in North Korea, and In-hua Kim — who lived in North Korea for decades before defecting in 2018 — has the answer.

Got a question for In-hua? Email it to [email protected] with your name and city. We’ll be publishing the best ones.


North Koreans have their own customs when it comes to dating and relationships | Image: NK News

Many North Koreans still meet through matchmakers, but even those wealthy enough to own cell phones don’t use them to arrange dates or casual sex.

North Koreans simply don’t have the freedom to use their phones for romance like you can in the South. You can’t do “sexting,” since any words related to sex are illegal, and sharing any kind of pornographic videos will land you in prison.

North Korea is a very conservative society. Kissing, hugging and even holding hands in public — let alone anything like a “North Korean Tinder” — is frowned upon as anti-socialist behavior.

Plus, cell phones aren’t very common where I’m from in North Korea. If you wanted to buy one, you would have to starve yourself for several months and not buy any new clothes in order to save up the money. Even then, you may not have enough to get your hands on one.

How can people who live on one meal a day justify spending money on a phone when that amount could get you several hundred kilos of rice?

North Koreans usually meet their partners through matchmakers | Image: NK News

Even though there’s no “North Korean Tinder,” we do use matchmakers. Young North Koreans usually get their parents to find them a matchmaker for marriage after they finish their military service. Some workers and university graduates also use them, but these people tend to marry someone they meet during their everyday lives.

All of my siblings met through matchmakers, but I had a romantic relationship with, and then married, a young military man. Many men, during their long ten-years of military service, try to woo women near their bases and take them back to their hometowns after they’re discharged.

When my future husband and I were dating, we didn’t even have a landline phone in our house. I would just have to tell him if I wanted to see him, and if he didn’t show up later then there was no way to get in touch and find out where he was.

There were actually occasions when he’d be away from home for months on end, during which time I wouldn’t hear any news from him.

If I were to call, I would have to first call the operator at his base, and if he were to call me, he’d have to call the operator at my factory.

It turned out that, during one of his long absences, he had been in hospital with acute pneumonia.

When we discussed this episode after we were married, my husband would complain about the backwardness of our country’s telecommunication facilities.

Even though there’s no “North Korean Tinder,” we do use matchmakers

These days, lovers sometimes use the family landline phone to talk to each other. Usually, though, only wealthier families have landlines – North Koreans wish they could all have access to them, just like those in the South do.

Landline-owners are quite proud of it, and even imitate South Koreans when making calls.

I heard about how this man picked up his landline phone one day and, to his surprise, heard a Seoul accent on the other side of the line.

It was his son’s girlfriend: She had put on a Southerner voice to ask for him.

The father then shouted after his sleeping son: “Hey, Myung Chul!  You’ve got a phone call from Seoul. I had no idea our country reunified while we were asleep last night!”

The family would joke that it was because they had a landline phone that they were able to experience unification before everyone else.

I look forward to the day when the poor people of North Korea will be able to use phones to communicate with each other and outsiders, just like people everywhere else in the world.

Edited by James Fretwell

“Ask a North Korean” is an NK News column penned by North Korean defectors, most of whom left the DPRK within the last few years. 

Readers may submit their questions to defectors by emailing [email protected] and including their first name and city of residence.


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