Watching Porn in Pyongyang

Question:  How much can  you get for a smuggled DVD of a South Korean soap opera in Pyongyang these days?

Answer:  Ten years in Camp 15.

Still, in the latest of a flurry of signs that the Thought Police aren’t what they used to be, the DVD’s are wildly popular anyway (hat tip to Ampontan).

“This year, North Korean authorities waged what they call ‘psychological warfare’ against ‘exotic lifestyles’ by cracking down on South Korean pop culture,” a senior government official said, asking to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

According to a survey conducted on recent North Korean defectors to the South, South Korean video tapes and CDs enter North Korea via China. North Koreans having TVs, video players or personal computers at home watch them, and then swap the programs among peers or friends, another source said.

The popularity of South Korean media has been so great that a lead actress’s line in the hit South Korean movie “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” became a household word in the North, while some North Korean youth are glued to such mega-hit TV dramas as “Fall Fairy Tale” and “Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-shin,” the sources said.

They further explained that the wave of South Korean pop culture does not stop at movies and videos. North Korean youth also enjoy sporting South Korean hairstyles and fashion, preferring tight pants and long front hair.

This is the kind of Sunshine and engagement that neither Korean government ever wanted, and which has the most potential to truly change North Korea.  South Korea’s “dramas,” at least the non-historical ones, are filmed in everyday locations in Seoul.  No North Korean’s faith in juche would long survive observation of  the background scenery:  tasteful interior design, streets clogged with shiny cars, and tables piled with uneaten food.  As much enthusiasm as I have for increasing  VOA and RFA  broadcasting into North Korea — something that’s finally being done —  I suspect that these nominally apolitical dramas that will have the most subversive power, for the very reason that they’re nominally apolitical.  The North Korean people must be exceedingly weary, and wary,  of harangues by now.  How they must yearn to be simply  happy.  It’s a  wonder  they remember how to laugh.

It gets better.  Technology has brought the art of dissent from  “Reading Lolita in Tehran” to “Watching porn in Pyongyang.”

North Korea’s state-run art magazine “Korean Arts,” in its latest issue, called for prevention of spreading “decadent dances.

….

Nonetheless, young North Koreans are reportedly watching South Korean movies, music videos and even porno. And, despite the state art magazine’s warning, many youngsters from Pyongyang’s wealthy families often have dance parties, resembling those in Seoul and Western cities.

All of this effort to  ferret thousands of forbidden items out of homes, caches, black markets,  and drop-houses has to come from somewhere, and it means that other acts of subversion will have to go unpunished or undetected.  Either that,  or  more of the strain will be shifted to the military, which will impose costs on training, morale, and maintenance. 

6 comments

  1. virtual wonderer says:

    I amen this post. This is a subject that i’ve been obsessed since i first heard of it in 2000. What shows are they exactly watching? Are there any popularity with sports pariticular south korean national soccer team? How widespread is it in the countryside? Are there underground filmhouses? Are they watching american pr0n, japanese pr0n, or south korean pr0n? Do they watch variety shows and documentaries? Do they watch subtitled chinese, japanese, american dramas?

    Even with all these dramas circulating, NK central tv hasn’t changed at all…. That tells you just how much the NK government is in touch with her people. Aside from their animation, every single NK show I watched were crap. Absolutely most vile and ridiculously boring crap. I totally believe DailyNK interviews where NK person claims “he lives just to watch more dramas.” There is no way in hell KJI can stop it now.

    First it’s ok to watch dramas. Then it’s ok to watch SK entertainers in game shows. Then it’s ok to watch SK entertainers in interviews. Then it’s ok to watch interviews. Then it’s ok to watch more serious talk shows. Then political talk shows. Then news…

    You know what I think could be the greatest threat to KJI? South Korean soccer team winning a major international soccer tournament.

  2. kdehead says:

    “often have dance parties, resembling those in Seoul and Western cities.”

    that reminds me – i remember reading somewhere, ages ago, that NK has amphetamine and ecstasy factories – which provides a ready source of hard currency for the regime. (and thus , you also have drugs for those “dance parties” in NK)

    is there any truth in that , or is it just rumour?

  3. Joshua says:

    I have never heard of NK producing ecstasy, but it’s been a known producer of high-grade amphetamines for the Japanese and South Korean markets for years. It’s also a reported opium producer, with special technical help from Thai Golden Triangle types.

    As for the availability of drugs in North Korea, it’s obviously hard to be sure, but there are recent reports (blogged here) that speak of opium and herion being avalable there.

    Most “experts” — a relative term here, to be sure — will tell you that North Korean men are very heavy drinkers, and I’d surmise that they have more than their share of alcoholics up there.

  4. virtual wonderer says:

    Joshua… hahaha… I was just thinkin’ when I read this:

    “..will tell you that North Korean men are very heavy drinkers, and I’d surmise that they have more than their share of alcoholics up there. ”

    50 years of political indoctrination can’t destroy some aspect of Korean culture.

  5. Joshua says:

    But they certainly can exacerbate it. How do you say “Victory Gin” in Korean?

  6. [...] As North Korea tries to enforce a crackdown on cross-border smuggling of people and subversive items, it finds that control isn’t as easy to maintain as it once was.  Both incidents involved suspected (cross-border?) smugglers: The source said that in the evening, around 10 PM, unknown arsonist set fire on armory that caused confusion. Amid fire, two smugglers broke the prison bars and escaped. Although the Manghyang district security guards declared state of emergency over Hoiryeong and tried to catch the jail breakers, they failed.  [Daily NK] [...]

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