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Finding love across the Koreas: A matchmaker's tale


Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- There's an old saying among Koreans: South Korean men are known for their looks and North Korean women for their beauty.

Choi Young-Hee took that adage and turned it into a business model. Choi is a matchmaker, bringing hundreds of South Korean bachelors and single North Korean female defectors together.

It's an idea that on the surface appears hopelessly flawed, given the current geopolitical status between the North and South. But Choi had a hunch when she opened her matchmaking agency five years ago that this sort of pairing would work.

She was right.

Nearly 500 marriages later, with only three divorces among them, this self-made Cupid is seemingly a statistical success. Proof, says Choi, that the main barrier to reunification and peace on the Korean peninsula is not the Korean people but politics.

"As I wed each and every couple and the people around them see them living happily together," says Choi, "I think they'll realize they may not like the Kim Jong Il leadership, but they'll know that regular North Koreans are not like that. I think that it's the most important thing in speeding up reunification."

Choi Hyung-Min (unrelated to Choi, the matchmaker) was one of the matchmaker's eligible bachelors. She matched him with one of her North Korean defectors, and they fell in love and married.
"They say that if you wed three couples you go to heaven ... so I guess I have a seat reserved."

CNN met them as they celebrated the first birthday of their daughter, Ye-Ran. The North Korean defector said CNN could not air her picture or reveal her name, fearing that Pyongyang would punish her remaining family in the North.

But she does have a message to share with CNN's viewers and readers.

"From the bottom of my heart, I really hope for reunification," she says.

"We talk about this all the time," says her husband, who has never met her extended family. "Visiting her hometown after reunification."

The North Korean defector says her marriage shows that despite the political differences and years of warlike disputes between the two nations, there is hope for a peaceful peninsula.

"There may be differences with the policies and institutions of the two countries. But we're all the same people, right? We're the same people."

To say that the unions are borne of a desire to reunify the country would ignore a reality in the matches.

North Korean women, says Choi, desire the automatic acceptance and stability a South Korean husband offers. South Korean men want a traditional Korean wife, believes Choi, which North Korean women offer, unlike modern South Korean women.

In crisp blue and yellow file folders, eligible bachelors are noted for their height, education, and job status. But that's not as important as a proper personality match says Choi, who then takes those South Korean men and matches them to North Korean women in her database.

Choi matches couples personally. When pressed what makes a match a marriage, she can't quite say.

Choi's colorful clothing, a leopard fur print jacket and sparkle headband, reveals little of the dark story of her defection out of North Korea.

In 2001, she slipped out of the North into China with her 11-year-old daughter. Her tale is filled with complicated twists and turns, she says. The end result was that a year later, after spending some time in a Mongolian prison, she and her daughter made it to South Korea.

Choi, like many North Korean defectors, suddenly found herself needing to make ends meet in a new capitalist society with not much of a support system. What she knew, she says, is what North Korean women and South Korean men want.

"They say that if you wed three couples, you go to heaven," laughs Choi, "so I guess I have a seat reserved."
(08.02.2011, 09:59)jperazor schrieb: There's an old saying among Koreans: South Korean men are known for their looks and North Korean women for their beauty.

Gibt es dafuer irgendwelche ethnischen Erklaerungen? Unterscheiden sich Nord- von Suedkoreanern, jetzt abgesehen davon, dass Nordkoreaner kleinwuechsig und unterernaehrt sind, was aber auch nicht auf alle zutrifft und vielleicht auch mehr Vorurteil bzw. Folge der persoenlichen Situation ist? Und so "old" kann das "saying" ja nun auch nicht sein... zumindest nicht aelter als 60 Jahre - oder gab es dieses Sprichwort davor auch schon?

Nette und interessante Geschichte, trotzdem.

Zudem faellt mir spontan die Dame ein, die Korean Airlines Flug 858 in die Luft gesprengt hat - sie hatte spaeter ja auch den suedkoreanischen Beamten geheiratet, der sie verhoert hatte ("Die Tränen meiner Seele", eines der besten Buecher, die ich je gelesen habe). Also nicht immer braucht's einer Agentur dafuer...
Hi Klaus!

Ja, Tränen meiner Seele ist echt gut!

Schonmal "Mord im Mausoleum" gelesen? Geht um das Attentat in Birma ...
Nein, "Mord im Mausoleum" war mir kein Begriff (das Attentat in Birma aber schon). Wird dort der Vorfall erzaehlt, so wie er sich zugetragen hat, oder wird hier eine erfundene Geschichte um das Attentat in Birma erzaehlt?

Das Attentat auf Korean Airlines Flug 858 war ja auch Anlass des 1988 erschienen "Die Amazonen von Pjöngjang" aus der literarisch nicht sehr hoch anzusiedelnden Malko-Reihe. Es ging hier um einen Anschlag auf die Olympischen Spiele in Seoul durch nordkoreanische Agentinnen, Handlung war aber erfunden.

Ich wuerde gerne "Die Botschaft" aus "Die Tränen meiner Seele" sehen wollen (die Villa, in welche Kim Hyun Hee einbrechen und das Schriftstueck aus dem Tresor entwenden musste). Irgendwo muss es dieses Haus ja geben...


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