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Irregular appearance of S. Korean flag on North`s TV station

Irregular appearance of S. Korean flag on North`s TV station

Posted May. 22, 2013 04:45,   


It makes people wonder why North Korea aired scenes with South Korea’s national flag for more than 30 minutes on its state-run television that all North Koreans watch. It was the first time that the North Korean media showed the South Korean flag openly for such a long time, which seems to harbor intentions.

The North`s state-run Korean Central News Agency aired on Monday a recorded final match in which Kim Hyok Bong and Kim Jong of North Korea defeated Lee Sang-su and Park Yeong-sook of South Korea at the 2013 World Table Tennis Championship held in Paris the previous day. It aired the graphic bearing its flag and South Korean flag in the scoreboard. It is quite different from the past that the North used to blot out the South Korean flag when it inevitably appeared in international matches.

A good example is the women’s final volleyball match between Korea and China in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. When North Korea aired the recorded match, it blurred the South Korean flag and left the Chinese flag intact in the scoreboard.

The latest exposure of the South Korean flag is all the more notable as it was intentional. North Korea used its own scoreboard while airing the match on Monday. It inserted a South Korean flag graphic besides the word South Korea (ROK). Though the South Korean flag was not absolutely necessary, given that the flag was in the screen, it is highly likely that North Korea`s new leader, Kim Jong Un, ordered it. No North Korean would order the television station to insert the South Korean national flag on the screen that all North Koreans will see without putting his or her life at stake.

It was not unprecedented that the South Korean flag appeared for a short moment on North Korean television. When the inter-Korean relationship was good in 2002, North Korea aired recorded matches in which South Korea made through the semi-final in the Korea-Japan World Cup, and the South Korean flag behind the goalpost briefly appeared. It apparently was not intentional but happened in an accident because they were not able to edit the scene out in the course of airing matches.

North Korea has strictly prevented its people from knowing about the South Korean national flag. A North Korean defector who was a former high-level North Korean official said, “Pyongyang insisted the Korean Peninsula flag while forming a united inter-Korean team in sports because it did not want its people see the South Korean national flag.”

As such, few North Koreans know the South Korean national flag. New Focus, an Internet-based media for North Korean defectors, asked 100 North Korean defectors in August last year if they knew about the South Korean flag in North Korea, and 84 percent of the respondents said they did not know it at all. Among the respondents, there was none among those who left North Korea before 2000. Sixteen percent said they knew the flag turned out to be either those who watched South Korean dramas secretly or high-level officials.

North Korea’s airing of the South Korean flag is a dramatic change in programs related to South Korea, but still it is not easy to guess what lies behind. It is highly likely that Kim Jong Un ordered it to show off that he is a different leader than his hermit-like father. The young leader might have done so because he thought he can no longer block the widespread popularity of South Korean pop culture in North Korea.