North Korea Seeks To Stem Flood Of South Korean Pop Culture

North Korea is cracking down on South Korean pop culture which is spreading fast in the hardline communist state, a news report said Thursday. "This year North Korean authorities waged what they call 'psychological warfare' against 'exotic lifestyles' by cracking down on South Korean pop culture," an unidentified senior South Korean government official was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.

Videotapes or DVDs of South Korean films or TV soap operas enter the North, whose regime shuns influence from the outside world, via neighbouring China. Recent defectors to the South say those North Koreans with access to TVs, video players or personal computers watch them and then swap the programmes with friends. The South's culture has become so popular that a lead actress's line in the hit movie "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" became a household phrase in the North, Yonhap quoted sources as saying. It said some North Korean youths are glued to mega-hit TV dramas such as "Fall Fairy Tale" and "Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-Shin." North Korean youths also sport South Korean hairstyles and other fashions. North Koreans for decades had access only to state-run domestic media which extolled the virtues of "Great Leader" Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il, known as the "Dear Leader". (cont)

The popularity of South Korean movies and dramas has spread throughout Asia - including North Korea, which strictly bans watching foreign television programs. Jason Strother in Seoul introduces us to a North Korean refugee who says South Korean dramas inspired her to flee to the South.

Byun Nan-hee is a North Korean refugee who has lived in Seoul since 2002. In the North, she says, television programs did only one thing: glorify the government and its leaders. Byun says that on North Korean television, there are only programs about Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung. Other dramas are about farmers or miners, nothing about ordinary life.

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