Shenyang, China — The names Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok are growing in popularity in urban North Korea now that variety shows hosted by the two South Korean entertainers, KBS show “One Night, Two Days” and MBC’s “Endless Challenge”, are becoming popular there.
One source who trades in Pyongyang said, “I rented ‘X-Men’ (a variety show on another big South Korean station, SBS), the show hosted by Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok, from a CD store; it was really entertaining.”
“One of the popular things with Pyongyang elementary and middle school students is the games they can see in this show,” he added.
He noted, “Parents believe the games in X-Men can develop their children’s brains, so they also try to occasionally show it to them. Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok are really popular here; we laughed until we cried.”
According to the source, people in Pyongyang do not generally purchase CDs of North Korean products, but rent them for around 500 won each, while illegally-produced South Korean dramas and variety shows are generally 2,000 won each, approximately the price of a kilogram of rice.
Another source from Shinuiju said, “The shows with Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok, ‘One Night, Two Days’ and ‘Endless Challenge’ are so popular that they sell for 4,800 won.”
The reason why people like ‘One Night, Two Days’, in which a number of South Korean entertainers, led by Kang, take a trip to little-known South Korean places to camp out, mingle with locals and play a range of games, the source said, is “because people can see a lot of the scenery of South Chosun, as if they were sightseeing for real. It gives comfort to those who are in the situation of being unable to so much as dream of a trip to Chosun.”
There is another background reason for their growing popularity: they are also popular among Korean-Chinese people in the border provinces of China, leading to these illegally copied CDs flowing into North Korea.
In Yanji, Dandong, Shenyang and other Chinese cities with big Korean-Chinese populations, internet cafes have their own servers to download South Korean TV shows so that local people can see them easily at a decent speed.
North Korean or Korean-Chinese smugglers then take illegally copied DVDs or CDs containing the shows into North Korea. One smuggler generally carries between 1,000 and 3,000 recordable CDs or DVDs including such shows into North Korea at any one time.
Another defector, Kim Seong Cheol explained, “I can copy thousands of CDs cheaply and send them to North Korea all at once.”
When he crosses the river, Kim says he ends up giving away a few hundred discs in the form of bribes, and wholesales a few hundred to each North Korean trader.