Digital Media Still Spreading

Demand for MP4 (MP3+video) files and the media devices to play them on continues to grow in North Korea, according to a source from Pyongyang.

The source reported yesterday in a phone interview, “Among the younger generation in Pyongyang and Shinuiju, taking pleasure in using MP4 files is a trend, while even general citizens are tending to seek out better quality radio.”

The source said, “Since MP4 files and CD players started circulating, smugglers and Korean-Chinese traders have been importing devices in bulk,” adding, “Young people are now sharing music and movies with their friends.”

“There are many kinds of MP4 players available in the jangmadang, and the range of costs is also wide. South Korean products are the most expensive at around 100,000 won, while Chinese brands cost around 50,000 won and second-handed ones, which can be imported for around 10,000 each, are sold for between 10,000 and 30,000 won.”

According to the source, demand for MP4 players is booming among North Korean youths due to their comparatively low cost and portability

The authorities have orders to confiscate the devices from those without permission to use them. Additionally, people caught watching illegal movies are punished. People’s Safety Ministry officials are in charge of regulating general issues of this sort, but electrical products also come under the auspices of the Third Economic Commission.

The source explained, “When a North Korean resident obtains an electronic product like this, he or she should register it with the Third Economic Commission in each province or the No. 27 Bureau of the National Security Agency, and then get its channels fixed.”

Regardless, since 2002, when markets were legalized, South Korean TV dramas and movies have been gaining popularity in North Korea. From that time, foreign movies started circulating very rapidly, leading people to comment, “Even though we are starving, we have to watch movies.”

The source also explained, “Regardless of age, people like to listen to Radio Free Asia, the Central People’s Radio Voice of China, South Korean religious radio broadcaster Far East Broadcasting Corporation and others. We enjoy South Korean dramas, too. Since early May, a South Korean drama called Chasing Slaves has been quite popular with the younger generation.”