According to sources, the North Korean leader is at the forefront of a “secretive anti-K-pop campaign” in an attempt to halt the rise in popularity of K-pop videos, K-dramas, and South Korean movies that are smuggled into the country on flash drives.
But K-pop fans are confused about this crackdown, given the apparent enthusiasm Kim Jong-un had for the girl band Red Velvet who performed in Pyongyang in 2018, readjusting his schedule to see them and even staging photo opps after they sang ”Bad Boy” and ”Red Flavour” to him.
The supreme leader is said to be concerned about these forms of media winning the hearts of young North Koreans during a time of economic deprivation, weakening his grip on the country.
North Korea’s official newspaper has warned of the spread of capitalistic influence in the country, stating that “history teaches us a crucial lesson that a country can become vulnerable and eventually collapse like a damp wall regardless of its economic and defense power if we do not hold on to our own lifestyle”.
Leaked internal documents have shown that Kim Jong-un believes that the “anti-socialist” material of South Korea negatively affects the “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors” of North Koreans. According to the New York Times, phrases from K-dramas have begun creeping into North Koreans’ speech, with women using the term ‘oppa’ (similar to ‘honey’) to refer to their boyfriends, rather than the approved ‘comrade’. Kim Jong-un has called this language “perverted”.
In December, the North toughened its punishments for the possession of South Korean media. Owning and/or watching South Korean entertainment is punishable by up to 15 years of hard labour, while those caught writing, singing, or speaking in a “South Korean style” could see up to two years’ work camp internment.