South Korean Movies Not Popular Anymore in North Korea

Changchun, China — In North Korea, the fervor of the South Korean Waves is on the wane; Korean dramas, which have spearheaded the spread of South Korean culture and progress since 2000, are no longer generating huge interest among North Korean citizens. The prevailing response of the citizens has been “I have seen enough” and “I have had my fill.”

A source form North Hamkyung Province said in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on the 2nd, “Nowadays, a Thai movie, “Ong-Bak (2003), Muay Thai Warrior,” is immensely popular among the younger generation. Chinese or American movies have become more popular than South Korean movies.”

The source added, “When South Korean dramas were first popular, adoration, curiosity, new storylines and exotic scenes generated a wave of interest, but people seemed to have had their fill.”

◆ Too much banter in South Korean dramas

He pointed out, “Korean dramas usually revolve around gangster stories or love ballads. But, there is too much banter or fraud.”

The reason for the drop in popularity of South Korean movies could be correlated with the fact that among Chinese North Koreans (North Koreans living in China), the South Korean cultural influence has been trivial.

The source relayed that, “Previously, Chinese people would bring back South Korean films when (North Korean) people requested DVDs, but now, and they mostly bring American or Chinese martial arts movies. According to smugglers working along the border, South Korean DVDs cannot be found in the homes of the Chinese.”

On a related note in Changbai, Jilin Province, Kim Gil Chun (pseudonym), a Korean Chinese person engaged in smuggling to and from Hyesan, Yangkang Province said, “Even now, the Yanbian Broadcast aired the South Korean drama “Daejangeum,” but the Chosun (North Korean) people (refugees) did not show much interest.”

He added, “When Chosun people look for South Korean movies, I make sure that I have some in stock, but they mostly look for American or Chinese movies now. In China, CDs are cheaper, so when doing business with North Koreans, we often give away several tens of CDs.”

◆ South Korean movies starkly contrast with the mentality of North Koreans

The biggest reason for the waning of popularity of South Korean movies has also been attributed to “ideological and cultural alienation.”

A source from Shinuiju said that, “When watching movies or dramas, my hands should get sweaty, but South Korean ones do not have that effect and I’m not always sure what is going on. South Korean dramas often end up in banter and the contents are repetitive.”

He evaluated thus, “More than anything, we like clarity and accuracy, but South Korean movies tend to be ambiguous. It frustrates me that they take and twist around words when the reality of the situation is clear.”

The source said, “Realistic work such as the Chinese dramas ‘Love’s Embrace,’ which was hugely popular in the North at one point, and ‘My Lover Is Not The Moon’ do not exist among Korean dramas. The Chinese movie ‘The Lady’s Spring’ (which was broadcast on Chosun Central Television) was a huge hit among the people and I hope movies like that are made again.”

He also said, “Among South Korean movies, works that have intensity, such as Bruce Lee’s movies or ‘Ong-Bak,’ have been lacking. Even North Korean movies such as ‘Hongkildong’ or ‘Limkkukjung’ portray fighting and the content is clearer.”

The source also stated, “American movies have been drawing interest lately. I watched an American movie, Armageddon (1998). I wish that South Korea would also produce movies like that.”

◆ North Korea still sings South Korean 1970s and 80s songs

Gwon Myung Chul (pseudonym), who visited his relatives in China at the end of October, noted, “In Pyongyang, people can mostly acquire South Korean songs. With the rising popularity of South Korean songs, CDs containing these songs have come out, but they did not generate much interest.”

Gwon explained, “Recent Korean songs have not resonated with us emotionally and they have been difficult to understand. I don’t know what the people there (in the South) think, but rap or Pansori (traditional Korean narrative songs) are really difficult to listen to.”

He observed that “South Korean songs were better in the past” and listed off the Korean songs which he could sing, such as Noh Sa Yeon’s ‘Meeting’ and Kim Jong Hwan’s ‘For Love.’

Gwon said in closing, “Rumors have been abounding recently that China has surpassed South Korea on the technological front. As a result, the degree of curiosity or expectation regarding the South has been gradually decreasing.”