North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has hit out at South Korean pop culture, calling it a "vicious cancer" and is implementing harsher punishments for those caught who listen to K-pop or watch South Korean dramas. Kim Jong-un believes that the K-pop culture is corrupting young North Koreans' "attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors."
His state media has warned that if left unchecked, it would make North Korea "crumble like a damp wall." The secretive anti-K-pop campaign came to light through leaked internal documents from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) by the Seoul-based news source Daily NK, the New York Times reported on Friday. These were then made public by South Korean legislators.
North Korea Cracks Down on K-Pop
The North Korean state media has slammed the spread of "anti-socialist" influence, which has reportedly corrupted the "attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors" of young North Koreans. In an attempt to reassert control, Kim has ordered his government to crack down on these so-called anti-socialist tendencies especially the K-pop culture that has taken the world by storm and has now entered the North as well.
However, Kim is in no mood to allow the influence spread further. He is thus seeking to stem the tide of the latest Korean wave particularly South Korean movies, K-dramas and K-pop music videos — on a near daily basis in recent months.
In an apparent bid to launch his own brand of cancel culture, Kim introduced new laws in December that bars everyone from watching or possessing South Korean content. Anyone found with such content could be sentenced to up to 15 years of hard labor in camps. The previous maximum punishment for fans of popular acts such as BTS was five years.
However, that is not where Kim wants to stop. If 15 years in labor camps isn't harsh enough, K-pop smugglers could even face execution while those caught singing, speaking or writing in a "South Korean style" could be sentenced to two years at a work camp, per the smuggled documents.
Kim in Fear
South Korean music, television shows and movies are enjoying unprecedented popularity across the world, including in totalitarian North Korea where cultural life is strictly dictated by the state. This is left Kim disturbed. Experts believe that Kim now fears young people who spend their free time learning the choreography to their favorite K-pop songs or are caught up in K-dramas depicting a glamorous life in Seoul might be inspired to seek change in the North.
"To Kim Jong Un, the cultural invasion from South Korea has gone beyond a tolerable level," said Jiro Ishimaru, chief editor of Asia Press International, a Japanese website that reports on North Korea. "If this is left unchecked, he fears that his people might start considering the South an alternative Korea to replace the North."
Kim thus is implementing harsher punishments to keep things in check. In May, a citizen was killed via firing squad for hawking bootleg South Korean music and other entertainment. In February, Kim, whose family has ruled the country for three generations, ordered the nation's provinces, cities and counties to clamp down on increasing capitalist influence.
Entertainment from the South has long been smuggled across the border, first as VHS cassettes and CDs and now as flash drives from China. Despite a shared ethnicity and language, patterns of speech and accents in South Korea vary considerably from the North.
But phrases picked up from K-dramas have begun creeping in, with women in North Korea sometimes opting to call their boyfriends 'oppa' - a term used in the South that is similar to 'honey' in this context - rather than the approved 'comrade',' The New York Times reported.
In order to eradicate the "perverse" phenomenon, state officials have been ordered to search computers, text messages and notebooks for South Korean vernacular, while people caught mimicking the "puppet accent" could be banished from cities, per the top-secret papers.
That said, this isn't the first time that Kim has cracked down on so-called anti-socialist tendencies. A couple of months back he infamously outlawed mullets and skinny jeans in an attempt to cut off "decadent" Western-style fashion trends.