The Sports Chosun (Korean) reports that with Korean international marriage brokers experiencing a shortage of Vietnamese and Malaysian women, a few firms specializing in arranging marriages with North Korean women have resorted to rather questionable marketing techniques that have earned public ire.

One North Korean human rights group said that while marriage information services specializing in North Koreans are probably necessary to help the skyrocketing number of female North Korean defectors better adjust to life in the South, they need to avoid demeaning and commercializing them.

There are currently four or five firms specializing in arranging marriages with North Korean women operating in the South. Unlike other international marriage brokers, they take money only from the men, who pay twice of what they’d pay to other companies.

Some of the banners these groups have run have drawn criticism, however. Like this one:

Marry a North Korean women! Confirmed identity. Compare them with foreign women. Company president appeared on KBS1TV

This, of course, brought to mind the posters advertising Vietnamese women that had been the source of controversy.

One of the companies specializing in North Korean women had even posted photos of the faces of the women on its homepage before taking them down due to public criticism. Even the Unification Ministry was shocked, given how it tries to keep the identities of defectors as closely guarded as possible for security reasons.

As of March of this year, some 10,300 defectors have come to the South (I take it the total is since 1948 since August 1953). Of these, 6236 are women. In fact, through 1989, women made up only 7 percent of defectors, but the ratio has been increasing to the point that last year, 78 percent of the defectors who came South were women.

An employee of one firm dealing with arranged marriages with North Korean women told the Sports Chosun that most of its customers are older bachelors and divorced men over the age of 32 who have failed in marrying a South Korean woman. He noted that it could be quite cumbersome marrying a Vietnamese women, including shelling out 10 million won to visit Vietnam. On the other hand, he said, his customers prefer North Korean women because the only thing different with them is the system under which they have lived; otherwise, their language and physical appearance are the same.

The employee also said that some South Korean men had been abusive verbally with North Korean women, taking advantage of their insecure position in society.

Meanwhile, some men send photos of models, asking the company to find them a North Korean girl who looks like the model. These men, said the employee, often use derogatory language with the women. He also said many men were sending photos of North Korean dancer Cho Myong-ae, who you’ll remember did a cell phone advertisement with Lee Hyo-ri last year.

Of the 300 male clients of the employee’s firm, about 40 of them have settled down with North Koreans. Formal marriages, however, are rare. Prior to legal changes in March, it was impossible to divorce spouses still in North Korea, so there were many instances of couples simply living together.

An official from an association of North Korean defectors told the Sports Chosun that marriage information firms — properly run — were necessary to help North Korean women to settle in South Korea in a stable way. He also said some firms were trusted more because they were run by defectors themselves. He said, however, that slogans and actions degrading or commercializing North Korean women needed to stop.