Korean Wave is Flourishing in North Korea, Says Report

The comic music video above is a clip from one of the most popular variety shows in South Korea, MBC’sInfinite Challenge.’ According to a recent report disclosed by a Saenuri Party member, the South Korean comedians in the video may have become just as famous in North Korea as they are in the South. The report claims that South Korean pop culture is extremly popular among North Koreans, including military officers (despite the regime’s efforts to suppress its popularity).

From Naver:

The Korean Wave surges in North Korea…Pyongyang loves Southern variety shows

South Korea’s most beloved variety programmes such as SBS’s  ‘Running Man,’ are reportedly very popular in North Korea [click here to watch the very first episode of the show].

While the popularity of South Korean pop culture that began with dramas and movies flowing into North Korea has spread in artistic circles, recently it seems that the so-called ‘South Joseon Wave’ [South Joseon is the name North Korea gives to its southern neighbour], namely the Korean Wave is spreading in all directions.

In particular, the North Korean Military and Public Security Office, who should be keeping the North away from Korean Wave, are no exception to such a trend; efforts to suppress the dissemination of South Korean pop culture have not been very successful.

On 25th [of July], a member of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Comittee, Saenuri Party Representative Yoon Sang-Hyun realeased a paper entitled, ‘Infiltration of the Korean Wave into North Korean Pop Culture,’ which reports that North Korean informants and relevant government agencies have confirmed that many North Koreans are fans of South Korean variety shows, such as SBS’s ‘Running Man‘ and ‘Strong Heart,’ and KBS’s 2 Days and 1 Night‘, and MBC’s ‘Infinite Challenge.’

Rep. Yoon said:

Within a week of a Korean TV show hiting the air, it can already be found in North Korean market places […] North Koreans are even enjoying American dramas such as Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, as well as porn films like ‘Womanizing Bastard.’

As South Korean pop culture is gaining popularity, Korean celebrities too are becoming famous in the North; from actors and actresses such as Kim Nam-joo, Jang Dong-gun and Shin Min-a to the most popular TV presenters like Yoo Jae-seok, Kang Ho-dong, and finally singers like Lee Hyori, 2PM, Girl’s Generation etc.

K-pop band 2PM are popular on both sides of the border

Is it time for change for North Korea’s popular culture?

Rep. Yoon went on:

South Korean soap operas are popular conversation starters among North Korean youth and women, and some young soldiers are almost addicted to South Korean videos, which lead them to moral education sessions.

The going prices of popular South Korean videos ranges from 1,000 to 4,000 North Korea Won when bought in CD form; the rental prices are about 200 to 300 Won. Porn films are 10,000 won, which is much more expensive than the average salary of North Korean workers (2,000 to 8,000 won).

Rep. Yoon also pointed out that:

As black markets flourish in the North, South Korean videos have become an important product among North Korean merchants…Even high-ranking officials, State Political Security Department officials, and National Police Agency officers are backing the industry, taking bribes; their families and acquaintances are involved in the sales and distribution of products.

And the means of distribution has been changing from video tapes, CDs, and DVDs to USB sticks and external hard drives; which makes it more convenient and allows one to store even more.

The representative products are as follows: films such as My Wife is a Gangster, Public Enemy, Two Cops, and Marriage is a Crazy Thing; soap dramas like Stairway to Heaven, Winter Sonata, Queen of Reversals, The 5th Republic, and Soonpoong Clinic; and variety programs such as The Golden Bell Challenge, Running Man, Sponge, and Strong Heart; finally, there are also a variety of porn films like Red Cherries.

A lot of South Korean celebrities are becoming famous too; Kim Yeon-ja, Na Hoon-a, Song Dae Kwan, Sim Soo-bong, BoA, 2PM, Girl’s Generation, Big Bang, Shin Min-a, Song Hye-kyo, Lee Young Ae, Kwon Sang-woo, Kim Tae-hee, Jang Hyuk, Kang Ho-dong, Yoo Jae-seok, and Song Hae.

Girls' Generation has a following in North Korea too

Do Girls’ Generation bring the boys out in the North?

The regime is trying hard to build breakwaters protecting the nation from the ‘South Joseon Wave’, punishing anyone who watches or rents South Korean videos with labour discipline, labour reformation (imprisonment), and public execution for those who copy or sell the products. However, according to Rep. Yoon such measures are to no avail.

North Korean authorities have made censorship agencies such as the ‘109 Group‘ and ‘Crackdown on Non-Socialism Groups’ to find and censor South Korean pop culture, yet its popularity has not been mitigated.

Rep. Yoon explained:

Security officers such as censorship officers, State Political Security Department officials, National Police Agency officers, and not forgetting military officers, are all fans of the variety show side of the Korean Wave…high-ranking officials are self-deprecatingly saying that with regard to [the unstoppable Korean wave] they have been completely defeated.

Comments from Naver:

mrhy****:

When we go to Europe or something, they ask us ‘Hey, are you Chinese or Japanese?’ Ha, K-pop fever? That’s only a teeny-tiny part of the population!

08be****:

Aren’t they gonna sell ‘Kim Jong Un’s Chocolate’? [Name of a live music TV show hosted by an actress the same name as Kim Jong-un 

tlsr****:

Damn! Even in the North there’s a huge difference between the poor and rich.

toma****:

Oh! Then they must’ve seen Kim Jong-kook’s muscular arms. ke They must be agitated.

papy****:

I’m gonna be rich in the North if I sell pornos from torrents. ke ke ke

kang****:

In North Korea, everything is ‘invented’ and ‘discovered’ by Kim Jong Il, even though it should be credited to great people from foreign countries; what they learn in history class must be sick. BTW, what happened to the rice we’ve sent? With such amounts of food, thousands of people can survive. I don’t understand why North Korean defectors claim that they had never seen such good rice back in the North.

marc****:

Mmm.. ‘With regard to this, high-ranking officials are self-deprecatingly saying that they have been  completely defeated.’ Seriously, ‘with regard to this’? What about the rest of regards, except for the ‘Pyongyang Ensemble.’ Their aggressive and bouncy moves to the ‘shoulder dance’ are insurmountable.

ltg1****:

North Koreans have enough opportunities to be exposed to South Korean pop culture. Of course it’s not like they have computers in every household, it’s pretty much like what the South was in the 70s. All villagers are gathered in a rich household, keeping up to date with South Korean news. It became a part of ideology education; admitting the South is wealthier whilst provoking them to steal all those goods from us. But it doesn’t seem to be working. I mean, they aren’t stupid enough to believe that a war is a reasonable way to get that wealth without damaging it. Rather, we should be aware of them feeling left out. They would start to ask ‘Why aren’t rich South Koreans helping us out a little?’

dksl****:

It seems like a fraud. If this Korean Wave thing was only for Pyongyang  citizens, then I’d buy into it. But most of them cannot even afford corns to feed themselves!

jjan****:

If a war breaks out, we shall fight by putting on a ‘Kim Jong Il mask.’

dlau****:

I lost interest when the article said ‘USB sticks and external hard drives are commonly used to share videos.’ That means it is the very few elites who are allowed to use computers that are watching those shows.

kunm****:

Seeing what North Koreans do to the regime is so frustrating. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution are all basically done by hungry commoners; except for secretly putting up posters with vulgar words, why aren’t those morons in the North doing anything?

xogu****:

They must have been brainwashed that ‘the South is a beggar country’ thing. When you watch those CDs, what does Seoul look like to you guys? ^^ Behold, our wealth. Feel it, the difference between the two Koreas.

etha****:

Invite Kim Jong Un onto ‘Running Man.’ Since he loves theme parks, record it in Lotte World .. Promise him free Bulgogi Burgers, and he’ll accept the deal without hesitation.

hyj7****:

Come unification, can I seduce North Korean women by buying them cool jeans and hooded t-shirts, feeding them Chinese food, and hanging out at K-pop concerts with them?

ckff****:

tsk tsk.. They’re slowly polluted by the South’s mentality. Total collapse of the regime is just a matter of time. But if the North collapses, I’m sure Chinks are gonna try to swallow it. MB’s tough attitude toward the North isn’t helping us either. I think we’ve gotta start building a ‘North-friendly’ image.

khh1****:

Becoming a rich nation doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I want this nation to help every individual become happy.

jip6****:

When the ‘Southern Wave’ is in full swing, then there should be a revolution in the North. They’re going to realize how much they’ve been fooled by the authorities.

dong****:

West German TV shows were one of the biggest factors to bring the end to East Germany; they both used the same broadcast signals. Those TV shows woke the East up. Although the North and South have different signals, I heard there’s a TV model which enables people watch both of the signals, available in China. What we’ve got to do is to send KBS programs, so North Koreans living near the 38th parallel can watch them. Let them know how much they’re deceived by the Kim family.

toni****:

Good, good! They’re falling down.

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  • Opalivian

    Doin the wave on my sofa.

    • Beth

      I hope it’s the Korean wave…

  • 참을 수 없는 존재의 가벼움

    Can South Korean pop culture become window of opportunity into reunified Korea?

    Soap operas, movies needed to be made, targeting North Korean for narrowed
    differences in mutual perception

    As we all know, the dismantling of the seemingly eternal cold war system was begun by the reform-minded Soviet Union leader Mikail Gorbachev. He did not, of course intend to overthrow the whole communist world, but his thoughts and actions were influenced by changes in perception of the cold war, though the cause of such alteration is attributable to military and economic inferiority of the Communist behemoth in relations to the United States.

    In addition, the wall separating two Germanys collapsed when initial stage of free movement between two countries changed into unfettered aspiration for reunification, mainly on the back of growing shared perception between people of two brother countries.

    Now back to the Korean Peninsula, the most intriguing question is: can the popularity of South Korean pop culture in North Korea be a real meaninful impact on ostensibly unbridgeable gap in national idenitity, not to mention economic affluence?

    For now, no one would know for certain about that point. However, an important implication emerges from the pop culture’s prevalence in the North. If many North Korean watch soap operas, and movies made in the South, they already know that the propagada from the North regime is not true, saying that South Korea has been impoverished under the imperialism of exploitist America. Of course, the knowledge of the astonishing truth does not mean that they are going to rebel against the suppressive regime, with numerous dissidents held and tortured in a remote detention centers.

    what is important is, however, that the South Korean pop culuture is being enjoyed among the upper ruling echelon in Pyongyang, which could be less willing to tighten its crackdown on illegally imported pop culture products un
    less they posed a visible threat to the existence of the regime.

    I think that initial change in minds of North Korean will grow into aspiration for freedom and economic prosperity, seen in movies and soap operas. So much so that the South Korean government take a strategic stance like making soap operas and movies aimed at letting North Korean imbibe liberal thoughts and know merits of democracy.

    Such attraction offensive may be more effective than the conventional method of a threat of military attack or economic sanctions, for which North Korea deomonstrated remarkable endurance, with the economic aid of China.

    Of course attraction offensive should be launched in such an implicit way that Norh Koreans do not know that they are instilled with liberal, and democratic values. Interesting storylines are crucial in doing so and textbook-style precautious tale would be provoke backfire from Pyongyang, which would be expected to demand when getting its hands on it that South Korea should stop hostile ideological warfare immediately.

    In dealing with intractable North Korea, it is high time for Seoul to consider shifting its focus to a more roundabout, but more profound, cultural approach.

    • http://www.thecapitalinthenorth.blogspot.com jixiang

      If you read the book “Nothing to Envy”, it gives a good explanation of North Korean propaganda, and why it is NOT threatened by its people knowing that the South is richer. Nowadays the North’s propaganda openly admits that the South is richer, since everyone knows it anyway. The key point of North Korea’s propaganda is not that North Korea is richer, but that the South is occupied by the US and that the Southerners want reunification under Pyongyang. If North Koreans realize this is not true, then the regime will lose its legitimacy.

  • lonetrey

    This is such a nice way for them to learn about the outside world o.O

  • Eddie

    Sadly, I don’t think this is going to make a difference. The two Koreas will never be unified. There are just too many obstacles in the way. The North Korean elite live like emperors, they will never willingly give up that power by unifying with the South. And plus China and the US are sitting on the sidelines, both of them striving to maintain the divide. I think South Koreans should just face this reality and give up the dream of unification.

    • lonetrey

      not with that attitude it’s not! (reunification)

      I would prefer South Koreans keep dreaming the dream of unification.

    • Yohan

      Of course Eddie, nothing can ever change. How many Americans about 30 years ago would believe there to be black man in the White House today? Hope for change is what brings change and your way of thinking is the biggest obstacle of them all.

    • Jang

      America ain’t interested in the divide, moronic! And blaming America, that’s original. Please, just ask America to leave and it will. If only that would happen, Korean men would have to rely on Korean women more instead of Americans and it’s big money to prop up S. Korea’s national defense. Koran men moronically ain’t interested in anything called equality for women, they moronically think men are supreme which hurts S. Korea economically duh!

  • Brett Sanbon

    오빤 평양 스타일

    • 바나나

      lolol
      fack that’d be awesome

      • Brett Sanbon

        hehe, I wan’t to see KJU make a rap video!

  • Random Person

    I remember reading about how Kim Jong Il had kidnapped a SKorean director because he liked his films so much, he wanted the director to make movies only for him. If the Hallyu wave is really famous in NKorea….they’ll know where to look if any comedians or KPop groups go missing.

    • Brett Sanbon

      Yea… he had a lot of people kidnapped

  • Stories of butts

    If they made some good entertainment they wouldnt have this problem.

  • Cleo

    Japan totally dropped the ball. Not only did it fail to properly create soft power with their aging SMAP brand but now not only are Koreans popular BUT Koreans feel better about Asia Ex Japan because they are being paid by the Minorities at the Water Park. DOUBLE DAMAGE to Japan’s plans.

    • Beth

      I don’t know…SMAP still gets me every time. Just thinking of Kimtaku’s little face makes me come over all funny.

      Anyway, I think that this ‘soft power’ thing is an interesting conundrum. I’m not sure that Korean soft power has yet reached the dizzying heights of Japanese soft power in terms of cultural recognition overseas, but at any rate, it seems to me that the increasing success of East Asian cultural products in in Western cultures has also been accompanied by an increasing westernization of what constitutes Korean or Japanese pop culture. I smell a paradox.

      Having said that, Korean drama is exceptionally popular in Turkey, apparently…

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