Kim Jong-un has called K-pop a “malignant cancer” capable of corrupting “clothes, hairstyles, speeches and behaviors” of young North Koreans, the New York Times reported. North Korea’s supreme leader has also passed a new law punishing those who consume and smuggle South Korean entertainment with forced labor and even the death penalty.
The mood follows his latest letter in state media, in which, according to the BBC, a crackdown on “unsavory, individualistic, anti-socialist behavior” among young people is called for. He wants to stop the spread of “dangerous poisons” such as foreign language, hairstyles and clothing, especially from South Korean films, K-dramas and K-pop videos.
“For Kim Jong-un, the cultural invasion of South Korea has exceeded tolerable levels,” Jiro Ishimaru, editor-in-chief of Asia Press International, told the New York Times. “If this goes unchecked, he fears that his people may begin to see the South as an alternative Korea to replace the North.”
This marks his growing hostility towards the South Korean pop culture, which is said to have “moved” him three years ago. According to the KCNA State Media of the North, the Supreme Leader said his heart was “puffy” when he and his wife watched the cultural diplomacy concert “Spring Is Coming” in 2018 in Pyongyang. The cast of the concert consists of several K-Pop stars, such as the popular girl group Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation member Seohyun.
North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un is not a fan of the popular Korean music genre called K-pop. He highlighted the K-pop groups’ sense of style and their alleged “foreign language”. (STR / KCNA via KNS / AFP / file)
The 2018 Pyongyang concert was the first South Korean music event in North Korea in more than a decade. It was seen as a major event in the 2018 “thaw” in North Korea-South Korea relations. Culture Minister Do Jong-whan said Kim Jong-un even “showed a lot of interest and asked questions about the songs and lyrics during the show,” Reuters reported.
However, the improving relationship between the two countries did not last long. Since North Korea breaks off communication relations with South Korea in 2020, the crackdown on foreign media will intensify. North Koreans who watch or own South Korean entertainment can now expect five to 15 years in a labor camp. Those who smuggle it are punished more severely, including the death penalty. Those who “speak, write or sing in the South Korean style” face up to two years of forced labor.
The only way North Koreans can enjoy South Korean entertainment is through smuggled flash drives from China.
“Young North Koreans think they owe Kim Jong-un nothing,” Jung Gwang-il, a North Korean defector, told the New York Times. Jung runs a network that smuggles K-pop into the country. “He must regain his ideological control over the youth if he does not want to lose the basis for the future of the dynastic rule of his family,” he said.