North Korea’s leaders have shown contradictory impulses when it comes to the influence from the South, pushing a narrative of Korean unification, even as they discourage cultural crosscurrents at home.
One woman in her late 20s who defected from North Korea last year recalls watching a video of a concert, shared behind closed doors in her hometown near the Chinese border. “Kim Jong Un clapped and cheered at the [same] performance, but we could only watch smuggled footage of it in hiding, because consuming South Korean music was still a crime that could land us in prison,” she said.
Another North Korean defector Han Song-ee recalls she was just 10 when she first saw a video of the South Korean K-pop group “Baby V. O. X.”
“At first it was so shocking and weird to see these ‘capitalist vandals.’ But as I listened to their music, I realized it was pretty catchy,” she said. Soon, she was hooked.
Han and her friends began to wear the colorful hot pants popularized by another South Korean group, “Girls’ Generation” – but only in their neighborhood, not the city center. Her father even became angry with her mother for copying the band’s hairstyle.
Han defected in 2013 and is now a well-known vlogger in Seoul, where she also appears on radio and television.
[San Francisco Gate]