In an attempt to root out elements that can
lead to potential political instabilities in the country, North Korea is
stepping up music censorship and scrapping all cassette tapes and CDs that
contain state-banned songs even if homegrown. Kim Jong Un is believed to have issued such orders
out of concern that certain songs could instill people with criticism or
resistance against the leadership, Daily NK has learned.
“Recently, the Central Party’s Propaganda
and Agitation Department has drawn up a list of ‘songs of no origin’ and
‘banned songs’ and is circulating it throughout homes,” a source based in South
Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “Included on the list are songs
from the North’s own movie ‘Im Kkeok Jeong (leader of a peasant rebellion in
These songs, she explained, have titles like “Take action blood
brothers” “To get revenge” and the list also includes the song “Nation of no
tears” from a made-for-TV movie “Echoes of Halla.” Some of these tunes were already banned a
few years ago, like “Take action blood brothers”, but this is the first time
the state has actively taken forceful measures to wipe out any means of immediate
access to them.
This was confirmed by additional sources in North Pyongan Province, and both Hamkyung Provinces.
“The local propaganda departments are
getting inminban [people’s unit] heads to collect cassettes and CDs from
people’s homes and are combing through them,” the source said. “If even one
song from the banned list is discovered, they incinerate the whole thing.”
The list includes many of people’s all-time
favorites, which has in turn stirred up complaints about the new censorship rules, according to the source.
Some have raised question as to why they
cannot sing songs from a movie produced by the country, putting propaganda
officials in a tight spot. “Recently, this has even led to fights between
residents and the inminban heads. Some women have gotten so angry that they’ve
stormed into the local propaganda offices complaining that they incinerated
their goods without even telling them, she explained.
Such measures carried out by the state have
failed to produce the intended results, only igniting more discontent among those
who can reasonably surmise why such orders were handed down.
“People have likened the times to the past
when yangban (Korea’s ruling class during the Joseon Dynasty) used to rule over
others, like during Im Kkeok Jeong’s era,” the source explained. “They know the
leader and those in the upper echelons of society are scared the Im Kkeok Jeong
song will become one of resistance against themselves.”
Predictably, an additional reverse effect of the move has been brewing fervent interest about the song in those who previously had little to no interest in it.
Some residents have even broken down the
lyrics and have offered their own interpretations of why certain songs have
been banned. In the case of songs from “Echoes of Halla,” — often sung by
people when times are rough — people believe officials were worried the lyrics
‘new neighborhood’ and ‘nation without tears’ would be interpreted as South
Korea. Hence, the move to ban the song out of fear that it would become a song
of hope for defectors, the source surmised.
“But most people believe once a song is in your head, it cannot be erased,”
she pointed out, adding that in light of new measures of oppression, understanding for those who have already escaped the North continues to spread, with some even calling them “enlightened.”
*The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.
The following is an excerpt from the banned
song “Take action blood brothers” from the North Korean movie “Im Kkeok Jeong”:
From the deepest parts underground ring out
the sound of people’s grief
Tears of blood have pooled together, oh in
this unfair world
Mountains and rivers tell us please,
How are we to live in a world that splits
And deprives us of our parents and our