중앙데일리

Where’s the white paper?

June 20,2019
KWON HYUK-JOO
The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.

“North Koreans became addicted to South Korean videos because of electricity shortage,” said former North Korean diplomat to Britain Thae Yong-ho at a lecture. Because they could not watch TV, battery-powered CD and DVD players were widely used, and South Korean dramas and films entered North Korea via China.

This started more than 10 years ago. North Korean defectors say that dramas like “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God,” “Moon Embracing the Sun” and “Descendants of the Sun” were popular in the North. South Korean-style music, like “Cheongjin Style” — a parody of “Gangnam Style” — also penetrated North Korean society.

North Koreans have quickly been influenced by South Korean dramas. A report on interviews with defectors states, “In North Korean dramas, good people are handsome and spies are ugly, so you know who is the spy immediately” and “You can predict the ending in a North Korean drama, but South Korean dramas are unpredictable. So you become curious and want to watch it more.”

From South Korean dramas, North Koreans see how people live in the South. That’s why South Korean videos are strictly controlled in North Korea. A defector testified that when caught, it costs 5,000 yuan ($724) in bribes to cover for watching a South Korean movie and 2,000 yuan for an American movie.
But it seems that bribes are no longer enough. Recently, Japanese media interviewed a defector who said they saw an execution for distributing South Korean videos. This is based on the North Korean Human Rights White Paper 2019, published by the Korea Institute for National Unification. But the white paper has disappeared. Earlier this month, the institute posted it on its homepage and took it down. The institute said it was posted by mistake before editing was completed. But there hasn’t been an update in nearly two weeks. I find the explanation very unconvincing, because North Korea is most likely afraid of its people learning about South Korea through dramas — and because the South Korean government fears North Korea’s reality being exposed through the report.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 19, Page 31


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