North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un worries K-pop will topple his totalitarian state through importing “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors.” He now calls for stricter punishments for the young North Koreans who smuggle or consume any South Korean content, and encourages fellow North Koreans to report their neighbors for watching the newest BTS music video.
In an effort to strengthen his struggling grip on the North Korean youth, Kim Jong-Un seeks to eliminate the influence of K-pop and K-dramas. This new battle is just a continuation of an ongoing culture war against South Korea, which began in the ‘90s with bootlegged entertainment.
According the The New York Times, the newest censorship law calls for 5 to 15 years in labor camps for anyone caught in possession of or watching South Korean entertainment. Those who smuggle the material into North Korean may face even harsher punishments, including the death penalty. North Koreans who, “speak, write or sing in South Korean style,” are subject to two years of hard labor.
Currently, most of the South Korean materials enter the country on flash drives through China, and their influence on North Koreans manifests through language and accent changes. Women in North Korea have adopted the phrase “oppa,” for their male romantic partners in lieu of the state sanctioned “comrade,” and those who “imitat[e] the puppet accent” from the South in conversations or text messages face expulsion from their cities.
In the U.S., dedicated K-pop stans have flexed their immense power through the use of fancams, voting polls, and TikTok, utilizing the internet to take political action. This time last year, they drowned out racist rhetoric on Twitter with floods of fancams and positive messaging. During the ongoing BLM protests last summer, K-pop stans broke a Dallas PD snitching app with a downpour of videos of their favorite artists singing and dancing. They also almost caused the downfall of TikTok when an embarrassed Trump sought punishment for them reserving thousands of empty seats at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It’s unlikely K-pop stans will singlehandedly take down the decades long North Korean dictatorship through the power of music, but who knows the extent of their political influence.