Why Kim Jong-un is waging war on slang, jeans and foreign films

Though unlawful, many within the North watch South Koreans programmes

North Korea has lately launched a sweeping new legislation which seeks to stamp out any type of foreign affect – harshly punishing anybody caught with foreign films, clothes and even utilizing slang. But why?

Yoon Mi-so says she was 11 when she first noticed a person executed for being caught with a South Korean drama.

His whole neighbourhood was ordered to look at.

“If you didn’t, it would be classed as treason,” she instructed the BBC from her dwelling in Seoul.

The North Korean guards had been ensuring everybody knew the penalty for smuggling illicit movies was loss of life.

“I have a strong memory of the man who was blindfolded, I can still see his tears flow down. That was traumatic for me. The blindfold was completely drenched in his tears.

“They put him on a stake and sure him, then shot him.”

‘A war without weapons’

Imagine being in a constant state of lockdown with no internet, no social media and only a few state controlled television channels designed to tell you what the country’s leaders want you to hear – this is life in North Korea.

And now its leader Kim Jong-Un has clamped down further, introducing a sweeping new law against what the regime describes as “reactionary thought”.

Anyone caught with large amounts of media from South Korea, the United States or Japan now faces the death penalty. Those caught watching face prison camp for 15 years.

And it’s not just about what people watch.

Recently, Mr Kim wrote a letter in state media calling on the country’s Youth League to crack down on “unsavoury, individualistic, anti-socialist behaviour” among young people. He wants to stop foreign speech, hairstyles and clothes which he described as “harmful poisons”.

Kim Jong-un

Mr Kim has referred to foreign speech, hairstyles and clothes as “harmful poisons”

The Daily NK, an online publication in Seoul with sources in North Korea, reported that three teenagers had been sent to a re-education camp for cutting their hair like K-pop idols and hemming their trousers above their ankles. The BBC cannot verify this account.

All this is because Mr Kim is in a war that does not involve nuclear weapons or missiles.

Analysts say he is trying to stop outside information reaching the people of North Korea as life in the country becomes increasingly difficult.

Millions of people are thought to be going hungry. Mr Kim wants to ensure they are still being fed the state’s carefully crafted propaganda, rather than gaining glimpses of life according to glitzy K-dramas set south of the border in Seoul, one of Asia’s richest cities.

The country has been more cut off from the outside world than ever before after sealing its border last year in response to the pandemic. Vital supplies and trade from neighbouring China almost ground to a halt. Although some supplies are beginning to get through, imports are still limited.

This self imposed isolation has exacerbated an already failing economy where money is funnelled into the regime’s nuclear ambitions. Earlier this year Mr Kim himself admitted that his people were facing “the worst-ever scenario which now we have to beat”.

What does the law say?

The Daily NK was the first to get hold of a copy of the law.

“It states that if a employee is caught, the top of the manufacturing unit will be punished, and if a baby is problematic, dad and mom can be punished. The system of mutual monitoring inspired by the North Korean regime is aggressively mirrored on this legislation,” Editor-in-Chief Lee Sang Yong told the BBC.

He says this is intended to “shatter” any dreams or fascination the younger generation may have about the South.

“In different phrases, the regime concluded {that a} sense of resistance may kind if cultures from different nations had been launched,” he said.

Choi Jong-hoon, one of the few defectors to make it out of the country in the last year, told the BBC that “the tougher the occasions, the harsher the rules, legal guidelines, punishments turn into”.

“Psychologically, when your stomach is full and you watch a South Korean movie, it is likely to be for leisure. But when there is not any meals and it is a battle to reside, individuals get disgruntled.”

Will it work?

Previous crackdowns only demonstrated how resourceful people have been in circulating and watching foreign films which are usually smuggled over the border from China.

For a number of years, dramas have been passed around on USB sticks which are now as “frequent as rocks”, according to Mr Choi. They’re easy to conceal and they’re also password encrypted.

“If you kind within the improper password 3 times in a row, the USB deletes its contents. You may even set it so this occurs after one incorrect enter of the password if the content material is additional delicate.

Illustration of family watching TV powered by a car battery

Sometimes, TVs can be powered by automobile batteries

“There are also many cases where the USB is set so it can only be viewed once on a certain computer, so you can’t plug it in to another device or give it to someone else. Only you can see it. So even if you wanted to spread it you couldn’t.”

Mi-so remembers how her neighbourhood went to excessive lengths to look at films.

She says they as soon as borrowed a automobile battery and hooked it as much as a generator to get sufficient electrical energy to energy the tv. She remembers watching a South Korean drama known as “Stairway to Heaven”.

This epic love story a couple of lady battling first her step-mother and then most cancers seems to have been widespread in North Korea round 20 years in the past.

Mr Choi says this is additionally when fascination with foreign media actually took off – helped by low-cost CDs and DVDs from China.

The begin of the crackdown

But then, the regime in Pyongyang began to note. Mr Choi remembers state safety finishing up a raid on a college round 2002 and discovering greater than 20,000 CDs.

“This was just one university. Can you imagine how many there were all over the country? The government was shocked. This is when they made the punishment harsher,” he mentioned.

Kim Geum-hyok says he was solely 16 in 2009 when he was captured by guards from a particular unit set as much as search out and arrest anybody sharing unlawful movies.

He had given a pal some DVDs of South Korean pop music that his father had smuggled in from China.

Stairway to Heaven, 2003

Stairway to Heaven was a well-liked present in North Korea about 20 years in the past

He was handled like an grownup and marched to a secret room for interrogation the place the guards refused to let him sleep. He says he was punched and kicked repeatedly for 4 days.

“I was terrified,” he instructed the BBC from Seoul the place he presently lives.

“I thought my world was ending. They wanted to know how I got this video and how many people I showed it to. I couldn’t say my father had brought those DVDs from China. What could I say? It was my father. I didn’t say anything, I just said, “I do not know, I do not know. Please let me go.”

Geum-hyok is from one of Pyongyang’s elite families and his father was eventually able to bribe the guards to set him free. Something that will be near impossible under Mr Kim’s new law.

Many of those caught for similar offences at the time were sent to labour camps. But this didn’t prove to be enough of a deterrent, so the sentences increased.

“At first the sentence was round a yr in a labour camp – that modified to greater than three years within the camp. Right now, if you happen to go to labour camps, greater than 50% of the younger persons are there as a result of they watched foreign media,” says Mr Choi.

“If somebody watches two hours of unlawful materials, then that might be three years in a labour camp. This is a giant downside.”

We have been told by a number of sources that the size of some of the prison camps in North Korea have expanded in the last year and Mr Choi believes the harsh new laws are having an effect.

“To watch a film is a luxurious. You must feed your self first earlier than you even take into consideration watching a movie. When occasions are onerous to even eat, having even one member of the family despatched to a labour camp will be devastating.”

Why do people still do it?

“We needed to take so many probabilities watching these dramas. But no-one can defeat our curiosity. We needed to know what was going on within the exterior world,” Geum-hyok told me.

For Guem-hyok, finally learning the truth about his country changed his life. He was one of the few privileged North Koreans allowed to study in Beijing where he discovered the internet.

“At first, I could not consider it [the descriptions of North Korea]. I assumed Western individuals had been mendacity. Wikipedia is mendacity, how can I consider that? But my coronary heart and my mind had been divided.

“So I watched many documentaries about North Korea, read many papers. And then I realised they are probably true because what they were saying made sense.

“After I realised a transition was going on in my mind, it was too late, I could not return.”

Guem-hyok eventually fled to Seoul.

Mi-so is living her dreams as a fashion advisor. The first thing she did in her new home country was visit all the places she saw in Stairway to Heaven.

But stories like theirs are becoming rarer than ever.

Leaving the country has become almost impossible with the current “shoot-to-kill” order at the tightly controlled border. And it is difficult not to expect Mr Kim’s new law to have more of a chilling effect.

Mr Choi, who had to leave his family behind in the North, believes that watching one or two dramas will not overturn decades of ideological control. But he does think North Koreans suspect that state propaganda is not the truth.

“North Korean individuals have a seed of grievance of their coronary heart however they do not know what their grievance is aimed in direction of,” he said.

“It’s a grievance with out course. I really feel heartbroken that they can not perceive even after I inform them. There is a necessity for somebody to awaken them, enlighten them.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *