North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly called K-pop, a music genre originating in South Korea, a “vicious cancer” corrupting the country’s youth, according to the New York Times. In recent months, Kim Jong Un and North Korean state media have been rallying against South Korean pop culture, including movies, K-dramas and K-pop videos. The North’s state media has warned that K-pop’s growing influence, which it calls “anti-socialist and nonsocialist”, on youth would make North Korea “crumble like a damp wall.”
The two neighbouring countries of the Korean peninsula have often used loudspeakers in the demilitarised zone along the border as propaganda machinery. Last year, inter-Korean relations took a major hit after North Korean defectors started floating leaflets to criticise Kim Jong Un’s regime over human rights violations and nuclear ambitions. North Korea destroyed the inter-Korean liaison office and cut all communication lines with South Korea.
Kim has now apparently declared a culture war against South Korea as the North Korean leader believes the popular culture of the South is corrupting the “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviours” of the country’s youth.
“Young North Koreans think they owe nothing to Kim Jong Un,” Times quoted Jung Gwang-il, a defector who runs a network that smuggles K-pop into North Korea, as saying.
Lee Jun-seok speaks after being elected as the new chairman of the People Power Party at the party headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.
“He must reassert his ideological control on the young if he doesn’t want to lose the foundation for the future of his family’s dynastic rule,” Jung reportedly added.
The family of Kim Jong Un, who took over the reins after his father’s demise in 2011, has ruled North Korea for three generations. During a famine in the late 1990s, North Korean families purchased food from unofficial markets that smuggled goods from China, including tapes and CDs with South Korean entertainment. Times report suggests that young North Koreans now watch South Korean entertainment, smuggled on flash drives from China, behind closed doors and draped windows.
The war against K-pop comes years after the North Korean leader was “deeply moved”, as reported by North Korean state news agency KCNA, following a two-hour performance by South Korean artists. In 2018, a 160-person delegation from South Korea, including the K-pop group Red Velvet and Cho Yong Pil, visited the North. Kim attended a performance in Pyongyang by South Korean artists and was “particularly interested” in Red Velvet, a K-pop girl group, the publicly funded South Korean broadcaster KBS reported.