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Korean Wave Swamps N.Korean Authorities

2007/02/01 | Permalink | Source

South Korean popular culture has become a headache for North Korean authorities, who seem unable to stem its samizdat spread there. Quoting North Korean refugees, a government official said Thursday many South Korean soap operas and movies have made their way into North Korea, and some young people find it difficult to keep up with their colleagues if they miss any South Korean dramas or movies. In Pyongyang, "Worry about yourself", a variation on Lee Young-ae's celebrated line from "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" ("Do good to yourself") has become a catchphrase. The dramas "Autumn in my Heart" and "Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-shin" are also popular.

According to a survey of 30 North Korean defectors who settled in South Korea, popular songs and dramas from the South are not only all the rage in Pyongyang; they have also found their way to border regions like Kaesong, Nampo and North Hamgyeong Province. South Korean actors like Bae Yong-joon and Jang Dong-gun have many fans there. North Koreans buy South Korean videotapes and CDs from people who frequently travel across the Chinese border, the survey shows. Nor is the trend confined to dramas and movies. North Koreans also reportedly copy South Korean hairstyles and fashions. The survey was conducted by the Ministry of Unification and Hanawon, a state-run helping North Korean defectors adapt to life in the South.

To stem the tide, all North Korean authorities can do is mutter about an "ideological penetration scheme", encouraging people to re-arm themselves with sound ideology, and strengthen surveillance. A government official here said authorities in the North are laboring to improve ordinary people's lives with measures like an increase in investment in light industries, out of concern that a growing desire for social change fueled by what they see in the soaps and movies could lead to the collapse of the North Korean regime.

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