Kim Jong-un slams ‘vicious cancer’ K-pop as anyone caught listening faces camp
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has branded South Korean pop culture a 'vicious cancer', introducing harsher punishments for anyone caught listening to K-pop.
Entertainment material from South Korea has been smuggled across the border for years, first as VHS cassettes and CDs, and now as flash drives from China, despite the state's censorship of media and the internet.
But Kim is seeking to stem the tide of the latest Korean wave, which state media has warned will cause North Korea to 'crumble like a damp wall', if left unchecked, reports the Daily Mail.
The New York Times reported that state media has criticised the spread of 'anti-socialist' influence – particularly through South Korean movies, K-dramas and K-pop music videos – on a near daily basis in recent months.
Kim Jong-un has ordered his government to clamp down on the cultural invasion, which he said is corrupting the 'attire, hairstyles, speeches and behaviours' of North Korea's youth, the paper reported.
In December, the Communist state brought in a new law that could see anyone caught watching or possessing South Korean entertainment sentenced to 15 years in a labour camp.
Previously, the maximum punishment was five years of hard labour.
Those smuggling the content into North Korea could face even harsher punishments, including the death penalty.
The legislation also calls for people who 'speak, write or sing in South Korean style' to face up to two years of hard labour.
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.
Citing North Korean government documents smuggled out by Asia Press International – a Japan-based website monitoring North Korea, the paper said that computers, text messages and notebooks are being searched for South Korean content and vocabulary.
Families of those found to be 'imitating the puppet accent' from the South could be expelled from cities, the documents warned.
Jong-un is reported to have warned that 'a serious change' was underway in the 'ideological and mental state' of young North Koreans.
The warnings come as the already-weak North Korean economy is suffering the crippling effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, and diplomatic efforts with the West have stalled.
This has prompted concerns of potential social unrest among the country's disaffected young people.
There are fears that millennials, who came of age during a gruelling famine in the late 1990s, could be less enamoured with their leader than previous generations.
During the famine, smuggled goods from China provided a lifeline for families struggling to survive, but as food trickled in, so did contraband entertainment from the South.
It showed a thriving society that sharply contrasted the image of a Capitalist inferno painted by North Korean propaganda.
Commentators have said that Kim now fears young people who spend their free time learning the choreography to their favourite K-pop songs or caught up in K-dramas depicting a glamorous life in Seoul might be inspired to seek change in the North.
A survey by Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification Studies spoke to 116 defectors who had fled North Korea in 2018 or 2019.
Of those surveyed, nearly half said they 'frequently' consumed South Korean entertainment while living in the North.
Many North Koreans ignore state instructions to inform on neighbours or family members who watch K-dramas, instead tipping them off to upcoming raids, The New York Times reported, citing documents smuggled out from the North by Daily NK.
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