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US NewsHow K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line

07:45  21 august  2019
07:45  21 august  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Now, there is evidence that South Korean K - pop is playing a similar role in subtly undermining the propaganda of the North Korean regime, with rising numbers of defectors citing music as one factor in their disillusionment with their government, according to Lee Kwang-Baek, president of South Korea ’s

Korean Wave (Hallyu) refers to the rise of South Korea 's cultural economy and popularity of Korean pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies. South Korea is one of the only countries in the world, if not the only one, that has a dedicated goal to become the world’s leading exporter of

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line © Jean Chung for The Washington Post/FTWP Ryu Hee-Jin, a North Korean defector, practices dance moves at a studio in Seoul, the South Korean capital.

SEOUL —As a little girl, Ryu Hee-Jin was brought up to perform patriotic songs praising the iron will, courage and compassion of North Korea’s leader at the time, Kim Jong Il.

Then she heard American and South Korean pop music.

“When you listen to North Korean music, you have no emotions,” she said. “But when you listen to American or South Korean music, it literally gives you the chills. The lyrics are so fresh, so relatable. When kids listen to this music, their facial expressions just change.”

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K - pop (abbreviation of Korean pop; Korean : 케이팝) is a genre of popular music originating in South Korea . While the modern form of K - pop can be traced back to the early 90s

North Korea is one of the world’s most politically repressive countries. No matter. Mr. Kwon says he has grown disillusioned with life in the capitalist South, where South Korean officials suspect these “repeat defectors,” as those who return to the North are known, may have been lured to China and

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line © Jean Chung for The Washington Post/FTWP Ryu, who defected in 2015 when she was 23, stands on the street in Seoul. Western music once helped tear a hole in the Iron Curtain — Soviet youths listened to illicit recordings of the Beatles, and in 1987, young East Berliners gathered near the Wall to hear David Bowie’s emotional performance of “Heroes” in the divided city’s west side.

Now, there is evidence that South Korean K-pop is playing a similar role in subtly undermining the propaganda of the North Korean regime, with rising numbers of defectors citing music as one factor in their disillusionment with their government, according to Lee Kwang-Baek, president of South Korea’s Unification Media Group (UMG).

The trend, fueled by growing cellphone ownership in North Korea and the country’s still buoyant border trade with China, has provoked a new clampdown by Pyongyang in the past year, according to reports on Daily NK, a defector-led news service with extensive links in the North. That followed Kim Jong Un’s 2018 vow to “crush bourgeois reactionary culture.”

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line David Bowie and the Beatles may have helped topple the Berlin Wall. Now South Korean and Western pop may be undermining the Pyongyang regime.

" North Korean people like all South Korean dramas, films and variety shows," the source said. "A variety show with singing and dancing is especially The private institutes where North Koreans are teaching new dance moves will not publicly admit the choreography was South Korea -inspired, but

Koreans are an East Asian ethnic group native to Korea and southwestern Manchuria. Koreans mainly live in the two Korean states: North Korea and South Korea

A survey of 200 recent defectors by UMG released in June found that more than 90 percent had watched foreign movies, TV and music in North Korea; three-quarters knew of someone who had been punished as a result; and more than 70 percent said it had become more dangerous to access foreign media since Kim Jong Un took power at the end of 2011.

Ryu is one of many defectors who say K-pop and Western popular music opened their eyes, convincing them that North Korea was not the paradise it was made out to be and that their best prospects lay abroad.

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line © Jean Chung for The Washington Post/FTWP Ryu practices dance moves with her instructor, a former member of a K-pop boy band.

In her bedroom in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Ryu would sometimes stay up all night watching a single music video on repeat — surreptitiously, for fear of the police.

“We were always taught that Americans were wolves and South Koreans were their puppets,” she said, “but when you listen to their art, you’ve just got to acknowledge them.”

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(But apparently, even North Korea had a limit to how far it would go in accepting K - pop . South Korean officials said the North had rejected their suggestion Defectors from the North have said that those who were caught selling or watching South Korean K - pop music videos could be sent to prison camps.

North Korea , officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or DPR Korea ; Korean : 조선민주주의인민공화국, Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk)

She remembers Celine Dion, the British violinist “with the crazy hair,” Nigel Kennedy, and the Irish boy band Westlife, as well as K-pop bands TVXQ, Girls’ Generation and T-Ara.

Born into a musical family, Ryu played the gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument similar to a zither, at an arts school in Pyongyang. A spell in the national synchronized swimming team was followed by a job as a waitress in southern Europe. There, she spent evenings in nightclubs, dancing “Gangnam Style” with co-workers and friends from South Korea. In 2015, at the age of 23, she defected to the South.

Former defectors based in South Korea have long understood the power of foreign news and culture in countering the regime’s propaganda.

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line © Jean Chung for The Washington Post/FTWP Kang uses a selfie stick to film a street scene in Seoul while walking with a friend. Projects such as Flash Drives for Freedom smuggle in USB sticks loaded with Hollywood movies and American television shows, as well South Korean dramas and music videos. Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, the BBC World Service and defector-run stations broadcast Korean-language radio programming into the North — mainly news but also music.

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“ North Korean soldiers on the front line have no choice but to hear the K - pop music broadcast from South Korea ’s loudspeakers,” says Dr Young This is, of course, a complete fabrication. “ K - pop is important to a large part of Korean society, but it is not representative of Korean society as a whole

The Division of Korea began at the end of World War II in 1945. With the declaration of the Soviet-Japanese War, the Soviet Union occupied the north of Korea

But growing private enterprise may be the most powerful driver of change, with videos brought in en masse by traders who cross back and forth from China.

The risks for viewers are real, with a special unit of the police and security services known as Group 109 in charge of the renewed crackdown. Even minors who are caught can face six months to a year of ideological training in a reeducation camp — unless their parents can bribe their way out — while adults can face a lifetime of hard labor or, for sensitive material, even execution.

It’s not just the melodies and lyrics that prove catchy, it’s also the performers’ clothes and hairstyles.

“The kind of thing I wanted to do was dye my hair and wear miniskirts and jeans,” said Kang Na-ra, 22. “Once I wore jeans to the market and I was told I had to take them off. They were burned in front of my eyes.”

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line © Jean Chung for The Washington Post/FTWP Kang Na-ra, who defected from North Korea in 2014, stands in the middle of a shopping district in Seoul.

Kang, who had been a singer at an arts high school in Pyongyang, defected in 2014, so “I could express myself freely.” She tried to make it in K-pop but says the singing styles are too different. Now, she has a successful career as a TV personality and an actress, mainly portraying North Koreans in South Korean films and dramas.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean reporters visiting North Korea ’s capital to cover a K - pop performance there received a surprise on Monday: an unusually graceful apology from a senior North Korean official.

How K - Pop Conquered the West. “Despacito” proved that pop speaks every language. Aoki points out that the K - pop revolution likely wouldn’t have happened without the streaming revolution “They’re able to create a sensory experience through clothes and music videos with elaborate story lines .

Han Song-ee was just 10 years old when she first saw a video of Baby V.O.X performing in a “Unification Concert” in Pyongyang in 2003, to an audience of comically impassive North Korean bigwigs. “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. Her father became angry with her mother for copying the band’s hairstyle. Later, Han and her friends began to wear the colorful hot pants popularized by South Korea’s Girls’ Generation — but only in their neighborhood, not the city center.

Gallery: The surprisingly normal lives of North Koreans (Photos)

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line
How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line

Han defected in 2013 and is now a well-known vlogger in Seoul, where she also appears on radio and television. She says she dreams of North Koreans being able to watch her broadcasts, and of her parents tuning in, “so they can see how free I am.”

North Korea’s leaders have shown contradictory impulses when it comes to the South, pushing a narrative of Korean unification, even as they discourage cultural crosscurrents at home.

Last year, Kim attended a South Korean musical performance in Pyongyang that featured older music divas, male rock musicians and young K-pop acts, including a trendy girl band called Red Velvet. The concert was broadcast in its entirety in the South but only in snippets on news programs in the North.

How K-pop is luring young North Koreans to cross the line © Jean Chung for The Washington Post/FTWP Han Song-ee, who defected from the North in 2013, checks her cellphone before the start of a radio show in Seoul.

One woman in her late 20s, who escaped North Korea last year, said video of the concert was shared behind closed doors in her hometown near the Chinese border.

She spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

“Kim Jong Un apparently clapped and cheered at the 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.

After she defected, Ryu said, she learned from a TV documentary that Kim Jong Il, the father of the country’s current leader, was a fan of South Korean cinema and TV shows.

“I was so, so angry,” she said. “We would literally cry when we sang about the hardships of Kim Jong Il’s life. I never imagined he was watching South Korean TV.”

These days, Ryu is studying for a business degree but still dreams of breaking into K-pop or — better yet — Hollywood.

“It’s so incredible how far I have come,” she said. “South Korean music really played a central role in guiding me through this journey.”

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