Not one to mince words, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un declared K-Pop to be a “vicious cancer” in the country’s new culture war against its southern neighbor.
As South Korean music, movies, and dramas continue to be smuggled into the North through its border with China, the influence of democratic values is being perceived as a threat to the communist regime’s stranglehold of North Korean society.
Details of the state’s campaign against South Korean influences came to light when South Korean legislators made public internal documents smuggled out of the Hermit Kingdom by Daily NK.
According to the New York Times on Friday, Kim Jong Un said that K-Pop has a corrupting influence on young North Koreans’ “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors.” State media warns that if South Korean influence goes unchecked, the North would “crumble like a damp wall.”
Kim and the state’s propaganda arm have continued to rail against “anti-socialist and nonsocialist” influences in the country. As part of his attempt to reassert control, Kim called for harsh penalties for those caught listening to the “perverse” music.
The trimmed report states that Kim introduced new laws in December to curb the spread of democratic culture, stipulating that anyone caught watching or possessing South Korean media could be sentenced by up to 15 years of hard labor. The previous maximum sentence was five years.
Those smuggling K-Pop music could even face execution, and those caught singing, speaking, or writing in a “South Korean style” (i.e. colloquialisms) face up to two years in a labor camp.
Despite efforts to clamp down on South Korean entertainment, the contraband material continues to be smuggled in without too much difficulty. According to the Times, a study of 116 recent defectors found that nearly half of them enjoyed the contraband content when they lived in North Korea.
“Young North Koreans think they owe nothing to Kim Jong Un,” said Jung Gwang-il, a North Korean defector who continues to smuggle the material into the North. “He must reassert his ideological control on the young if he doesn’t want to lose the foundation for the future of his family’s dynastic rule.”