Kim Jong Un: K-pop is a 'dangerous cancer' that is deserving of labor camps and execution
Kim Jong Un is cracking down on supporters of DPRK pop.
North Korea's 37-year-old leader is toughening penalties for citizens caught listening to "perverse" K-pop music in response to South Korea's growing cultural influence.
The covert anti-K-pop campaign was revealed by internal documents smuggled out of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) by the Seoul-based news website Daily NK, the New York Times reported Friday. South Korean legislators then made these public.
The newly slimmed-down DPRK despot had dubbed southern cultural imports a "vicious cancer" that was corrupting North Korean youths' "attire, hairstyles, speeches, and behaviors" à la the dancing in the 1980s film "Footloose" — but with a much darker tone.
In an apparent attempt to establish his own brand of cancel culture, Kim enacted new legislation in December that stipulates that anyone caught watching or possessing South Korean content faces up to 15 years in prison. Previously, the maximum penalty for fans of popular acts such as BTS was five years in prison.
As if that weren't harsh enough, K-pop smugglers could face the death penalty, while those caught singing, speaking, or writing in a "South Korean style" could face two years in a work camp, according to the smuggled documents.
A citizen was executed by firing squad in May for peddling bootleg South Korean music and other entertainment.
South Korean entertainment has long been smuggled across the DPRK border, first on cassettes and then on flash drives imported from China. However, the head of the "Hermit Kingdom" has stepped up his anti-capitalist rhetoric in recent months as he sees his country becoming increasingly susceptible to southern cultural influences, according to the Daily Mail.
Meanwhile, Kim — whose family has ruled the country for three generations — directed the country's provinces, cities, and counties to rein in growing capitalist influence in February.
North Korean state media have even warned that if nothing is done, the popular music genre will cause the country to "crumble like a damp wall."
Indeed, the K-pop ban comes at a bad time for the rogue regime, which has already been crippled by decades of mismanagement and US-led sanctions over Kim's nuclear weapons program.
Experts say that during times of upheaval, young North Koreans are more likely to adopt foreign customs and challenge Kim's authority.
“To Kim Jong Un, South Korea's cultural invasion has gone beyond a tolerable level,” said Jiro Ishimaru, chief editor of Asia Press International, a Japanese website that covers North Korea. “If this continues unchecked, he fears that his people will begin to view the South as a replacement for the North.”
North Korean millennials who grew up during the 1990s famine are particularly disenchanted with the state, which has long promoted the image of South Korea as a beggar-infested hellhole. They discovered that while they were starving to death, their southern brethren were attempting to lose weight through dieting.
The issue is not limited to listening to K-pop. Korean slang has been infiltrating everyday conversation in recent years, with North Korean women increasingly referring to their boyfriends as "oppa" — a term for "honey" popularized by South Korean dramas — rather than the state-mandated "comrade."
To combat the "perverse" phenomenon, state officials have been directed to search computers, text messages, and notebooks for South Korean vernacular, while those caught imitating the "puppet accent" face expulsion from cities, according to the top-secret documents.
However, it may already be too late to reverse the trend. According to the New York Times, a South Korean study of 116 recent defectors discovered that nearly half had "frequently" consumed southern content while residing in the DPRK.
“Young North Koreans believe they owe nothing to Kim Jong Un,” according to Jung Gwang-il, a defector from North Korea who smuggles K-pop into his former motherland. “He must reassert his ideological control over the young if he is to avoid losing the foundation for his family's dynastic rule in the future.”
This is not the first time Kim has taken a hard line against ostensibly anti-socialist tendencies.
In April, the mushroom-haired dictator famously banned mullets and skinny jeans in an attempt to stamp out “decadent” Western fashion trends.