Three North Korean soldiers in their 20s were transported back to their military base on their way to Mt. Baekdu for having imitated a dance to South Korean boyband Bangtan Sonyondan (BTS)’s “Blood, Sweat & Tears.”

According to a Daily NK military source on Tuesday, the incident occurred at Sokhu Station in South Hamgyong Province during the evening of Aug. 5. After a train heading from Pyongyang to Hyesan suddenly stopped in its tracks due to a power outage, the three soldiers, who are part of the country’s Army Air and Anti-Air Force, imitated the dance during a “party” thrown as the train remained idle. Then, Defense Security Command (DSC) officers who were watching the dancing suddenly “grabbed the three soldiers and took them away.”

Following a decision by two officers from the General Political Bureau and DSC, the three soldiers were transported back to their base by security officials at Sukhu Station. Their alleged crime was “imitating a corrupt dance from South Chosun [South Korea] while heading [to Mt. Baekdu] to learn about the revolutionary spirit of patriotic martyrs.”

The three soldiers were reportedly “model soldiers,” which led to surprise among their fellow soldiers that they had been deemed by the authorities as “ideologically corrupt to the core.”

Soldiers at a summer retreat to a revolutionary historical site in Mt. Baekdu recently. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

The soldiers told interrogators that they were “unaware” that the dance moves they had done were originally from South Korea. The soldiers claimed that they learned the dance “at their military base” and pointed out that dances from the “Hungtan Sonyondan” were popular “all through society” even before they joined the military.

The soldiers’ direct military superiors, however, have been placed in an awkward position. The “dancing incident” occurred in front of soldiers from other military bases, meaning that the superiors must report every detail of the investigation and punishment of the soldiers to the military leadership – not least because GPB and DSC officers brought the allegations.

There are rumors that the soldiers could face, at minimum, six months hard labor along with demotions; the worst case scenario is that they could be handed a dishonorable discharge.

There are also questions surrounding how the DSC officials were able to accurately discern that the dance came from a BTS song. This, however, “is not likely to become an issue” given that there is a special department within the agency that “watches foreign-made videos three hours once per week,” according to the source.

Military authorities have reportedly put together plans to strengthen “education” among soldiers following the incident. On Aug. 8, the GPB distributed “political study and learning documents” entitled “The Ideological Culture of Capitalism and the Issue of Young Soldiers from the New Generation” while ordering military units to conduct “discussions.”

The military has used the incident to emphasize in the documents that “The imperialists are targeting young soldiers of the new generation…in their ideological and cultural invasion schemes” and that “[This] reality requires [soldiers] be more vigilant about the scheming of the imperialists, who aim to [make them less loyal to the country].”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.