North Korea bans sharing of private video content

Popular media players for watching foreign content in North Korea (left, notel; right, mp4 player
Popular media players for watching foreign content in North Korea (left, notel; right, mp4 player). Image: Daily NK

The North Korean authorities intend to punish residents caught sharing personal videos recorded on cell phone cameras and camcorders, according to sources inside the country.

The authorities have recently been delivering seminars on the topic of banning the distribution of video content at places of employment and people’s units. During the seminars, an example reference has been made to a university student in Pyongyang, who was punished for distributing a video of a wedding that he attended.

“In a state-owned enterprise last week, the Party’s Primary Committee Secretary delivered a lecture talking about how those who make and distribute videos among themselves will be strictly punished,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK.

According to the source, it was pointed out during the lecture that there has been a rapid increase in the number of young people sharing videos of them singing and dancing together at weddings and picnics. The lecturer claimed that this kind of behavior spreads capitalistic “party culture” and corrupts the elegant ideological culture of North Korean-style socialism.

The recent ban was issued under the name of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee with punishments to be directed not only at the individuals responsible, but also their entire family, said the source.

The university student who was punished for sharing videos of scenes in which wedding attendants were partying and dancing has been accused of “carrying out a serious crime that erodes our moral culture with the rotten culture of capitalism,” a source in Pyongyang reported.

“The Primary Committee Secretary (Commissioner) emphasized that people should self-censor their computers and cell phones and delete these kinds of videos or report them,” he said, further noting that people are puzzled by the ban.

Recently, the viewing of videos of holiday events and weddings together with family has become a popular pastime in North Korea. There are even businesses offering services to edit personal video recordings or record a video on behalf of a client. The videos are generally saved to USB or SD format and viewed on cell phones.

Residents are confused by the crackdown on personal content, which comes in addition to bans on South Korean dramas and movies.

Some North Korean defectors believe that the North Korean government’s attempt to crack down on personal video recordings is due to anxiety surrounding the role of technology in fueling protests during the Arab Spring.

“North Korea’s intelligence agency is well aware of the fact that IT equipment was a crucial driving force behind the Arab Spring ten years ago. That’s why the authorities are forbidding North Koreans from sharing data between themselves,” said Seo Jae Pyong, Executive Director of the North Korean Defectors’ Association.

“The sharing of personal video content is being banned because Kim Jong-un is also part of a younger generation and knows a lot about it [the power of IT]. Even if North Korea’s information technology develops, they will completely ban any elements that are a threat to the regime.”

*Translated by Yongmin Lee

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