Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: Impact of "Korean Wave" on North Koreans

Interesting report on how South Korea's soft culture is impacting North Koreans. Below is a translation.

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A new report investigates the contours of "Korean Wave" in North Korea through detailed interviews with North Korean defectors. Kang Dong-Wan, researcher for Korea Institute for National Unification and Park Jeong-Ran, researcher for Seoul National University Center for Unification and Peace, analyzed the North Korean distribution route of South Korean visual media and the attendant changes in North Korean people's mindset in their report, titled "Korean Wave Shakes North Korea."

The 33 interviewed defectors, selected with a consideration for regional balance, watched South Korean visual media "every day" (34%) or "once or twice a month" (41%). The most frequently watched include the movies "The General's Son" and "The Trap", and dramas "Autumn Tale" and "Stairway to Heaven". They watched through South Korean broadcast receivable near the border, or through smuggled DVDs and CDs.

The interviewees said they nurtured their admiration for South Korea as they watched a dining table with white rice with several side dishes, a house with separate rooms for parents, couples and children, the way people wear different clothes indoors, outdoors and going to sleep, and the way women drove cars. The interviewees said constant viewing of South Korean visual media gradually disarmed their ideological guard and lessened their fears of living in South Korea, serving as a catalyst for defection.

The researchers said, "We asked the participants whether the spread of South Korean visual media can change North Korea, and most replied that there would be a significant impact," and added, "we emphasize that the process of constant watching, listening and sharing would lead to the changes in thoughts and ideologies." But to the opinion expressed by some that South Korea should have a production with political propaganda in order to induce the political change in North Korea, the authors noted, "It may lead to unintended adverse consequences, like killing the goose laying golden eggs," and advised, "It may be necessary to develop the contents that promote the capitalistic and democratic spirit that are unintended and naturally seen in South Korean society."

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  1. In this era, it's near imposible to keep information from a group of people, especially a group bordering South Korea which has media in their language.

    But boy, I'd hate to get caught in North Korea with some kind of South Korean media in my possession.

  2. I hope the Northerners enjoy playing this hide and seek game with their overlords, and the Southerners enjoy having their hopeful assumptions crushed....they're gonna be doing it for the next 30 years or so.

  3. I've read elsewhere that many North Koreans who watch South Korean TV and movies assume from the easy availability of cars and good food that the media are depicting only the ultra-wealthy.

  4. This reminds me of a few tales out of the book "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" which is the best book I've read in a long time. One man recounts that while he was studying in Pyongyang he fixed his TV so that he could recieve the broadcasts from South Korea. He was watching a comedy program one day and saw two women fighting over a parking spot and realized how many cars there must be for two women to fight over a parking space. Another tale was when one woman crossed the border and saw rice in a bowl on the ground. She first thought that the rice was for people like herself sneaking over the boarder. She later realized that it was food for the dog. There was so much rice that you could give leftovers to a dog.

    I imagine having access to South Korean or other Asian programing would really make North Koreans realize the lie that their government is telling them. I wonder if it helps them adjust any better to the south Korean culture when they immigrate here, having seen those programs for so long...

  5. This reminds me of Eastern Europe before the Berlin Wall came down. The population became disaffected with communism because they watched Western lifestyles in the media and started drawing comparisons. Of course the North Korean regime is so tight this feeling won't give rise to any popular movements, but perhaps a gradual softening or changing of the culture may take place - or is already...

  6. If something is good (or bad) and it's been hidden for a long time, that something will eventually be brought into light. There was no way that the North Korean government would be able to keep their people from knowing about the outside world.

    And all these fictional shows seem to be better propaganda then blatant propaganda itself.

  7. @ Nathan Schwartzman I've read elsewhere that many North Koreans who watch South Korean TV and movies assume from the easy availability of cars and good food that the media are depicting only the ultra-wealthy.

    Perhaps that is why shows like Infinity Challenge and 1 Night 2 Days are so popular there. These shows give them, among other things, a chance to see how S.Koreans really live.

    Excerpt: "[North Koreans] 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.”

    Say what you want about KPOP and KDRAMAS, but they're giving Asian American kids a stronger identity and helping (hopefully) to bring about a revolution.


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