By Alek Sigley, Tongil Tours founder and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University.
My wife Yuka and I held our wedding in Pyongyang on May the 4th. We weren’t entirely sure of what to expect, but the wedding turned out extremely well. A few years back our Korean business partner, a good friend of ours, suggested that if we get married we hold our ceremony in Pyongyang. Years later we’ve finally made that happen! See this opinion piece I wrote for Independent Australian for more of the back story.
I want to write a full blog post with pictures, but I haven’t got the photos from the guests yet, and that’s presently a little hard for me to do in my current internet situation. There’s also a specially made video. I will share those in the summer when I leave the DPRK for my summer break.
But for now, I’ll just put up some basic details. Our wedding hosted around fifty guests. We had a group of twenty family and friends join us from overseas as a tour group hosted by Tongil Tours. After the wedding day, we went on a one-week travel itinerary around the DPRK, going to Kaesong and the DMZ, sightseeing around Pyongyang and passing through Wonsan to hike in Mount Kumgang. Kim Il Sung University kindly allowed me to take a one-week break from classes to accompany the group.
Our entourage included several honoured guests. One among them was our academic partner, friend, and mentor Dr Andrei Lankov. It was a fascinating experience to travel the DPRK for one week with him. Stay posted for more collaboration between Andrei and Tongil Tours in the future.
We were joined by Nikolai Johnsen, my long-time friend and business partner at Tongil Tours. Carlos Gorito, who once starred in South Korean talk show Abnormal Summit alongside Nikolai, also joined us. We were delighted to have Park Yeongi, a Zainichi Korean filmmaker and a good friend of ours, attend.
The wedding was also attended by about fifteen foreign students from Kim Il Sung University who are friends of mine. A representative from the university’s Office of External Affairs and two Korean students from the dormitory (tongsuksaeng) joined too.
Last but certainly not least, our Korean business partners at Korea International Youth and Children’s Travel Company (KIYCTC), who organised the event for us, joined celebrations on the day, together with other representatives from the DPRK tourism industry’s National Tourism Administration (NTA). We must express especially warm thanks to Ms Hong, our star guide, for the brilliant job she did with Korean-English simultaneous translation for the wedding’s host. And of course, to Mr Kim too for organising such a stellar wedding.
All in all, the wedding had guests from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the DPRK, France, Italy, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Russia, the UK and Vietnam. We also had guests from every Korea, the North, the South (an ethnic Korean with Australian citizenship, and one with Canadian citizenship), a Zainichi Korean from Japan and some Chosonjok Koreans (from China)!
The wedding went for about three hours during the afternoon of Friday, May the 4th. It included an entrance ceremony, lunch, traditional Korean toasts, gift giving, group photos, and finished off with performances and speeches. We also got a quick photo taken in the studio attached to the venue, which they presented to us during the wedding.
The wedding was held at Unjong Center (은정식당) attached to the Pyongyang Circus (평양교예단) on Kwangbok Street. The staff did a brilliant job on all accords, from some of the best food I’ve ever had in the DPRK for lunch, to the photo, the host, the performances, and all around excellent service. It’s thanks to them that we’ll have happy memories to cherish for life. That’s it for now, stay tuned for more in summer, which will include pictures and the video!