South Korean Wave in Jangmadang

[imText1]The North Korea State Security Department is recently searching for a solution to prevent the rapid spread of South Korean movies and soap operas among North Koreans. Since 2000, North Korean government has recognized South Korean and Chinese movies as capitalist ‘yellow wind’ and the State Security Department was responsible for control, investigation, and punishment. Nevertheless, many Chinese and South Korean movies and soap operas have been circulating since video players have been supplied through China.

According to a North Korean defector in Dandong, China, Choi In-su (pseudonym, 32, North Pyongan Province), “it began with hawkers or defectors going back and forth from China to North Korea who brought one or two Chinese or South Korean VCDs in early 2000. Then recently, a group started to circulate massive copies at the market place.” He also mentioned “I saw Jang Chul-woon(pseudonym) and his brother being arrested by State Security Department for selling South Korean movies at the market place and showing them to neighbors.” Choi In-su added, “They will spend at least a few months in the prison, though, they would have been sentenced to the death penalty.”

Following is the script of correspondent interview with Choi In-su

– Is it true that South Korean movies and soap operas are popular among North Koreans?

“True. There are people selling copies at any market place. Buyers ask for South Koreans, not for Chosun (North Korea) movies. Chosun movies are not interesting and people have already seen them as part of the education. North Koreans who have seen South Korean movies and soap operas, like them. They say actors can act and the plot is based on real life and even the sexual scenes are real.”

– Do you remember any of the South Korean movies you have seen?

“As for soap operas, Everything about Eve (produced by MBC) is well known. Son of the General, and Hoodlum Lessons are also good. But the most famous one is Memory of Murder. I watched several times.”

– What is the price like?

“South Korean movies are from1400 won to 1700 won. Chinese ones are 1000 won or 1200 won. Chosun (North Korea) movies are only 500 won.”

– Who sells them?

“Probably the people who often go to China or have close ties with China. They come to North Korea hiding VCDs, then they copy them into VCDs to sell at the market place. Since there is no computer, it is impossible to copy onto CDs thus they only copy them onto video tapes. But they risk being arrested and the death penalty, yet people still do so because of the high profit.”

State Security Department officials also watch them

– Who are the main viewers?

“Everyone… officials ..even state security department officials also watch them”

– Are recorders(VCR) easily accessible?

“What are you talking about? They are not easily accessible.. we gather at a house where a VCR is, then we secretly watch it.”

– How about the control?

“During periods of inspection, they control the flow of copies strictly. If you are caught during this period, at the very least, you are sent to detention facilities. But after this inspection period, people still sell and watch them. Last year my neighbor was caught during the inspection and they had hard times. While they were watching South Korean movies with their close friends when the electricity suddenly went out. They cut out the electricity on purpose so that the owner of the house would not have the time to hide the tape… his VCR was confiscated, he was sent to a detention center, but he was released in exchange for some money.”

On the other hand, according to a newly revised North Korean criminal law in April, anyone who reproduced, circulated, or watched South Korean films were to be sentenced to at least two years of labor camps (in cases of felony, it is four to five years).

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