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31 Dec, 2009 09:25

N. Korea frowns on “unhygienic” handshakes

N. Korea frowns on “unhygienic” handshakes

An editorial in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s biggest newspaper “Nodong Sinmun” has called on people to abandon the Western way of greeting, the handshake, and to use the traditional bow instead.

The traditional Korean bow for a greeting is praised as a traditional ritual, which is “optimal for the aesthetic tastes of the Korean people,” and “promotes good-natured and friendly relations.” Readers are prompted to be proud of the “cultural, highly moral and hygienically flawless” bow, which is in all ways superior to the Western-style handshake.

The issue of handshakes has received media attention in North Korea before, in 2007. During negotiations with the South, the Pyongyang envoy suggested refraining from handshakes and using the traditional Korean bow, while Seoul’s diplomat insisted that a handshake was an internationally accepted way of greeting. Back then, Nodong Sinmun criticized the South’s “parroting” of Western habits as well.

Nationalistic notions are strong in both South and North Korea, and in both countries there have been public calls to stick to traditional culture in clothing, hairstyles and behavior, although the Republic of Korea naturally has been more open to foreign cultural elements. For the DPRK, anti-Western propaganda has become a major factor of social and political stability, so officials quite often call on the people to stick to traditions.