The totalitarian family of Kim Jong-un has had a tight grip on North Korean society for more than 70 years. With the growing influence of South Korean culture, the leader Kim Jong-un became worried about losing his absolute control and thus started a cultural war. Still, even a dictator may have trouble holding back the cultural tide.
The North Korean regime has formed its own culture, hostile to outside influence to keep its superiority. The only media in North Korea is the media the state allows. All radios and televisions receive government broadcasts only. The government has even blocked its people from using the global internet. Besides, for example, men cannot wear long hair, women cannot put on short skirts or skinny jeans, and the only hair dye available is black.
Korea has taught its people that their neighbor, South Korea, is a living hell with crawling beggars. However, K-dramas and K-pop, first smuggled on tapes and CDs, show the opposite state of North Korean propaganda. Young North Koreans discovered that while they struggle through famines, people in the South try to eat less to lose weight. While North Koreans are concerned with their health because of a flawed healthcare system, South Koreans are concerned about their afternoon fun.
“To Kim Jong-un, the cultural invasion from South Korea has gone beyond a tolerable level. If this is left unchecked, he fears that his people might start considering the South an alternative Korea to replace the North.”Credit: Jiro Ishimaru/Asia Press International
Tougher Censorship, Even Tougher Punishment
South Korean entertainment, now smuggled on flash drives from China, is stealing the hearts of young North Koreans. Its presence has become so concerning that North Korea enacted last December a new law. According to the New York Times, a Seoul-based website, Daily NK, secretly took hold of internal North Korean documents informing us about the enforced law.
According to the paper, people watching or possessing South Korean entertainment can spend five to fifteen years in work camps if the police catch them. Those secretly bringing the forbidden enjoyment could face the death penalty. The new law also forbids people to speak, write or sing in South Korean style.
Disciplinary squads patrolling the streets are now searching computers, text messages, music players, and notebooks to find South Korean content. Shockingly, they also listen to local accents. The families of those caught imitating the South Korean accent could be expelled from cities as a warning. For instance, women in North Korea should call their husbands and dates “comrade.” Instead, many have started calling their dates “oppa,” or honey, as women do in K-dramas. Kim Jong-un has called the language perverted.
North Koreans are fearless. According to the Daily NK, the phenomenon of distributing South Korean movies and songs is not disappearing but continuing. What do you think, should governments control media to stop the influence of other cultures? Alternatively, should everyone be free to choose their own culture?