War Against K-pop: Kim Jong-un escalates the culture war against South Korea

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Pyongyang increases censorship of Seoul’s growing influence through music and series

The recent restoration of communications between North Korea and its southern neighbours has not translated into a restoration of cultural ties, at least not into Pyongyang’s increased tolerance; Kim Jong-un remains uncompromising in his position against any influence that might come from the other side of the 38th parallel and is obsessed with eradicating what the president himself calls a by his country’s more than 25 million people.

Last summer, The Daily NK, a Seoul-based specialty North Korea newspaper, warned via its network of informants that the country had strengthened measures to remove dyed hair, piercings and clothing, such as jeans. . In December, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency concluded that, with the passage of the “rejection of reactionary ideological culture” law, the North Korean government is working harder to counter possible foreign influence. Under the law, those who watch, listen to or possess foreign films, series or music, especially from South Korea, face up to 15 years in a forced labor camp, 10 years longer than the previous law provided for. Those who own unregistered televisions, radios, computers or mobile phones will also be subject to such punitive measures, while those who import and trade large quantities of material deemed illegal is the death penalty. The text also states that those who “speak, write or sing in a South Korean style” can be sentenced to two years of hard labor.

Following this kind of inquisitorial policy, the state media relentlessly urges the new generation to stay away from anything that might remind them of South Korea, be it fashion, hairstyles, music, even slang. The North Korean Youth League had published several documents in 2021 indicating that its members should act as “fashion cops”, to ensure that no one dresses or combs their hair in a Western style.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the voice of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, published an editorial in late July in which it bragged about the advantages of the official language, based on the Pyongyang dialect, and reminded young people of the need to speak up. North Korean standards properly, without outside influence.Yonhap’s agency also echoed that North Korean women are encouraged to refer to their partners as “friends” instead of “oppa”, a term of affection used in K-dramas.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, for its part, insists that propaganda videos denouncing the seriousness of adhering to “capitalist behavior” are becoming increasingly common.

The image of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shaking hands at the Panmunjom summit in April 2018 circulated around the world and raised the possibility of North Korea showing openness after decades of isolation and hostility. That same summer, a month before Moon visited Pyongyang, the North Korean leader and his wife attended a concert of artists from the South in the North Korean capital, the first in more than two decades, where several K stars attended. , like the band Red Velvet.

However, the stagnation of negotiations with the United States and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caused this country to be closed off since January 2020, and to control all information (or what is meant by informing). No tourists or diplomats entered, or investments to dismay Pyongyang. Another sign of distance, hiding behind the outbreak of the pandemic and a desire to protect its athletes, is the absence of the North Korean delegation from the Tokyo Olympics, the first time since 1992 Barcelona (after they boycotted the summer event in Seoul in 1988).

Despite the heavy blow suffered by the already weakened North Korean economy in the current situation (crippled long ago as a result of sanctions imposed by much of the international community led by Washington over its weapons and nuclear programs, and the country’s productivity). inefficiency), secrecy in response to the global health crisis has created the opportunity to further limit messages that could circumvent its border protection. Kim Jong-un constantly calls for ideological education to be promoted and discipline among the youngest to be ensured. In Rodong Sinmun’s editorial it is even said that the survival of the political system is at stake: “only when the new generation has a deep understanding of the ideological and revolutionary spirit, can the future of the nation be bright; otherwise, the revolution will be in vain. This is a lesson written in the blood of the history of the world socialist movement.”