North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has labeled K-Pop as a “vicious cancer” that is corrupting the youth of the country he leads. As a result, he is imposing harsher penalties on citizens who are consuming South Korean movies, K-dramas and K-pop videos.
The New York Times detailed the secretive anti-K-pop campaign that came to light through leaked internal documents from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The news was originally reported by the Seoul-based news source Daily NK.
The state media has slammed the spread of “anti-socialist” influence, which has reportedly corrupted the “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors” of young North Koreans. In an attempt to reassert control, Kim has ordered his government to crack down on these so-called anti-socialist tendencies.
North Korea has been one of the world’s most repressive authoritarian regimes for more than 70 years.
Jiro Ishimaru, a chief editor from the Japanese website Asia Press International, has been monitoring North Korea’s activities. He said that Kim believes that the “cultural invasion” from South Korea has exceeded a tolerable level.
“If this is left unchecked, he fears that his people might start considering the South an alternative Korea to replace the North,” Ishimaru said.
K-pop fans are famously social-media savvy and wielded their power against American right-wing entities over the past year. Such activities rose to the surface last June when fans took over the #whitelivesmatter hashtag on Twitter, filling it with posts of K-pop stars, and later that month then took credit for disrupting President Trump’s rally in Oklahoma by reserving tickets they had no intention of using, falsely inflating organizers’ expectations for an event that ended up with an audience far below projections. Various hashtags and other activities have followed.
It seems likely that North Korean government properties could be a target for such fans in the coming days.
Kim introduced a series of new laws in December that raised the punishment for watching or possessing South Korean entertainment from five years of hard labor to 15 years in a labor camp. His state media warned that if these influences are left unchecked, it would make North Korea “crumble like a damp wall.” Those caught smuggling South Korean content are at risk of receiving even harsher punishments, including the death penalty.
“Young North Koreans think they owe nothing to Kim Jong-un,” Jung Gwang-il, a defector who smuggles K-pop into North Korea, said in the New York Times article. “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.”