Go to contents

[Opinion] South Korean Wave Hits North Korea

Posted July. 12, 2007 03:28,   


North Korean defector “A” could sense changes back home when she got in touch with her nineteen-year-old daughter she left behind in the North. While updating her, the daughter suddenly said, “Send me a CD copy of the ‘Jewel in the Palace” (a hit Korean drama). She told her mother that she could make money by copying the CDs and selling them. She added that the CD would be much more conducive to her livelihood than cash. Kim Seong-min, representing Free North Korea Radio, heard this story from “A.”

It is not uncommon to see North Koreans secretly enjoying South Korean dramas, movies and pop songs. Reports have it that karaoke bars, video watching rooms and internet cafes – also known as “South Korean entertainment facilities” – which first appeared on the border adjacent to China, have popped up all across North Korea.

The South Korean Wave has penetrated to North Koreans of all ages. Last year in Hamgyeongnamdo (Hamkyeongnam province), 12 elementary students were charged with watching South Korean videos in a public trial. In an attempt to eradicate any anti-socialist activities, the authorities punished the students’ teacher as they were too young to take any responsibilities. The case once again illustrates the popularity of the South Korean Wave.

In a North Korean edict exclusively obtained by Donga Ilbo, North Korean authorities ordered all the karaoke rooms and video watching rooms opened without government license to be closed down. It warned that anyone violating the edict would be subject to severe punishment regardless of their status or affiliation. The recent edict bears a significant resemblance to one that was announced three years ago. At that time, the authorities warned that anyone caught watching a South Korean film or with an unregistered video-playing device will face severe consequences. Such frequent warnings in some ways hint at the reclusive regime’s fear of a possible collapse.

As far as our hopes go, can’t the North Korean authorities regard the South Korean Wave in the context of the Korean Wave spreading in Asia? If North Koreans can enjoy South Korean pop culture just as any other Asians do, it would live up to the often-mentioned slogan of “Koreans as one nation.” It is simply absurd that North Koreans are punished for tasting South Korean culture while their leader Kim Jong Il is indulging in South Korean movies and dramas. The day will come when the authorities will no longer be able to suppress their people’s cravings for the South Korean Wave.

Bhang Hyeong-nam, Editorial Writer, hnbhang@donga.com