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North Korea's elite spending thousands of dollars on weddings, source says

The richest in North Korea are flexing their purchasing power with receptions that would be considered excessive in the reclusive country.

By Elizabeth Shim
The wealthiest residents of Pyongyang, North Korea, are holding extravagant wedding celebrations and are paying for the events in U.S. dollars, according to a source. File Photo by Choson Sinbo/Yonhap
The wealthiest residents of Pyongyang, North Korea, are holding extravagant wedding celebrations and are paying for the events in U.S. dollars, according to a source. File Photo by Choson Sinbo/Yonhap

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Restaurants in North Korea catering to the country's elite are booming, and sources in the country say North Koreans are paying for extravagant wedding celebrations at the venues in U.S. dollars.

A North Korea source speaking to Radio Free Asia on the condition of anonymity said Pyongyang is in the middle of North Korea's fall wedding season, and families of the country's most favored class are flexing their purchasing power with receptions that would be considered excessive in the reclusive country.

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Pyongyang's rich spend thousands of dollars on food and entertainment in the city's most vaunted establishments, and according to a Pyongyang native in China, more people are holding celebrations in restaurants rather than at home.

The Pyongyang resident said Kyungheung-kwan, a restaurant in the city specializing in wedding receptions, only accepts parties of 100 or more guests, and meals cost $5 per person. Other venues, such as hotels, charge more, and it is not unusual for weddings in Pyongyang to cost as much as $3,000, an exorbitant price in a country where the per capita income in 2014 was $1,210, according to South Korea's central bank and 70 percent of the population is food insecure.

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But higher prices could mean better value – the source said the food is "delicious," and includes seven to eight dishes.

South Korean outlet Newsis reported the trends in North Korea's conspicuous consumption coincide with a changing culture among Pyongyang's elite with regard to weddings. At wedding venues, those who can afford North Korean celebrities invite singers and dancers to perform, and wedding videography has become popular.

"Weddings venues are typically reserved for two to three hours," Radio Free Asia's source said. "Recording the event when the bride and groom are asked to sing and dance appeals to the younger generation."

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