Rocky Yes, Juche Wind No

The Ministry of People’s Safety has been ordered to crack down on more than 500 popular songs that either have South Korean melodies with North Korean words or are deemed to be influenced by South Korean culture.

An inside source told Daily NK late last week, “The authorities have tried to ban more than 500 North Korean movie theme songs that are either of South Korean origin or influence. The Ministry of People’s Safety has declared them ‘anti-socialist’ and started a crackdown.”

The North Korean authorities have been enforcing a crackdown on South Korean cultural influences through the ‘109 Inspection Team’ for some time, but this is the first time that they have publicized a list of banned songs.

According to the source, the banned songs are categorized into three types: 1. South Korean songs sung with different lyrics 2. South Korean songs sung by North Koreans 3. Songs composed under South Korean musical influence.

Popular South Korean songs in North Korea that make the list include Morning Dew by Yang Hui Eun, Friend by Ahn Jae Wook, Japcho by Na Hun A, Apartment by Yoon Soo Il, You will Never Know by Hae Eun I, and A Letter From A Private by the late Kim Kwang Suk. Many people sing the songs without even knowing that they are South Korean.

An example of a song with its lyrics changed to contain North Korean words is ‘Wind Wind Wind’ by Kim Beom Ryong from 1985. The last verse, ‘you are a wind that makes me cry’ is sung as ‘Juche, Juche wind.’ However, the people sometimes sing the original South Korean version when meeting in private.

The banned songs are sung in a way that is distinctly different from North Korean songs, which are sung in high-pitched voice. The lyrics of the banned songs are mostly about friendship and love, which stands in contrast to the standard North Korean fare.

In the past, South Korean songs could not be spread easily, but now they are easily copied through MP3, MP4 and USBs. North Korean students run the risk of being sent to Coventry if they are uncool and don’t know any South Korean songs. As such, the authorities are only likely to drive the songs a little further underground, rather than eliminating them.

As the source pointed out, “Even though the Ministry of People’s Safety is cracking down on South Korean films and music, people will still watch the films and listen to the music.”