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.