North Korea insider unveils ‘blood type as dating demand’ in Kim Jong-un’s state

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Life inside the hermit state is shrouded in mystery. Very few details about life under Kim Jong-un’s regime is known due to North Korea’s extreme secrecy and isolation from the outside world. The little that is known comes from defectors’ accounts and reports from humanitarian agencies. Even tourists are only allowed to see certain parts of Pyongyang, the nation’s capital city, during strict guided tours and are unable to explore freely. 

James Scullin, 37, an Australian who worked as a tour leader in the nation, was granted privileged access after he proposed a photograph project to document hotels.

Alongside photographer Nicole Reed, he visited the capital’s “ghost hotels” – named so because many were empty but continued to function due to being supported by the state. 

During his trips to North Korea, he managed to bond with local guides and gain enough trust for them to speak candidly with him.

Several conversations concerned dating within the hermit state and led to him being told about an unusual demand for possible love interests.

Mr Scullin told “What I learned in my time was that there was no benefit in speaking about their leader or politics.

“There is a conversation script that you will get, a very learned response, but if you develop personal connections there are a lot of fascinating things to learn.”

They included “dating, career progression and housing”, which Mr Scullin found more fascinating because the country was “so strange, unique and isolated”.

He felt that North Korean society was “collectivist” and that they shared “united values” compared with the “hyper-individualist” approach in the West. 

Despite the differences, Mr Scullin found that by “carefully talking around sensitive topics” it was easy to bond over “basic human things”.

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He told “I remember talking to them about dating and they brought up ‘blood types’ quite a few times.

“They meant it in terms of if you’re looking for a particular spouse you want to know their blood type.

“It’s something that North Koreans are cognisant of and they will know if a person is a good match for their blood type.

“I mean who would ever think about that? It was an interesting thing where North Korean girls said they wanted to find out early.”

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Mr Scullin was also told that age was “super important” and believed that was the case in “a lot of Asian countries”

He told “There is a certain pressure for people to marry in their twenties and not have too much of a ‘life’ outside of wedlock.”

Away from the world of dating, they shared photographs of their families, partners and children during conversation – as well as talking about university. 

Mr Scullin believed that many of the younger generation felt “quite privileged” to be in Pyongyang because their parents “experienced a lot more hardship”.  

He told “In a Western sense, it’s a very poor country but relative to previous generations they are living in quite a comfortable time.

“If you want to flesh out the differences you can do but for tourists I don’t think that’s very rewarding for you.

“If you meet someone from Russia you don’t talk about Putin, just like you wouldn’t in North Korea because the values and politics are a different universe from ours.

“You can get a lot out of interactions if you focus on people of the country and if you make bonds over commonality, it creates a more rewarding experience generally.” 

To find out about James Scullin and Nicole Reed’s work visit: 

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