Residents Pull Plug on SK TV Dramas For Now

Lee Sang Yong  |  2014-10-20 17:47
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North Korea has recently seen a dip in the number of those secretly enjoying South Korean films and television dramas, due to an increase in random home inspections now involving agents from the State Security Department [SSD], the Daily NK has learned.

Recently, aside from the 109 Group that is in charge of cracking down on CDs containing dramas from the South, officials from the SSD, Peoples Safety Ministry, and Peoples Committee are also taking part in surveillance, a Pyongyang-based source reported on Friday. With this, people are now trying to stay away from South Korean dramas.

Especially now, even bribes that could have helped bypass punishment from the SSD are no longer an effective option, the source explained. And with word that those involved will face penalization with no mercy, people are now too scared to watch them.

The Norths SSD has proven these are not empty threats by carrying out harsher punishments, further discouraging people from enjoying their South Korean favorites. According to the source, a woman in her 50s from the Hyongjaesan District in Pyongyang was caught watching a series from the South and shipped off to a political prison camp. The merchant who lent her the CD was also apprehended and inevitably faced the same fate.

Even among those who sell the dramas, they are leaning towards pulling out of the business because they know the SSD labels whoever watches them as political criminals, the source said. If you ask those who used to trade the CDs if they have any, now, they adamantly shake their heads." 

The crackdown on so-called Hallyu [Korean Wave] content in North Korea is a more marked trend since the leadership of Kim Jong Eun. On January 14th, 2012, he ordered a crackdown on impure recorded content and publications, which led to the creation of an organization dubbed, Unit 114. This became the first regular group instituted during the current leadership with the aim of preventing capitalist culture from spreading.

Unit 114 is made up of officials from the Workers Party Propaganda and Agitation Department and the SSD, who are tasked with special duties related to surveillance and keeping groups in check. It reflects the determination to root out past practices in which officials received bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye towards illicit content.

However, the source speculated this regulation from security officials will not last long as the North becomes more acquainted with the capitalist culture and transforms into a society that prioritizes money, rendering state crackdowns useless.

What do you think cannot be taken care of here [in North Korea] with bribes, other than issues directly dealt with by the SSD? the source asserted. If you just give it some time, people will be able to watch South Korean dramas again in exchange for slightly heavier bribes.

Party cadres watch dramas from the South more than average people, he went on, adding, They have executed cadres in the past, trying to make an example out of them, but recently there hasnt been any news like that, so its likely well see more leniency again.

North Korea had stepped up its crackdowns on video content from the South in the recent months after the period drama from the Joseon Dynasty Jeongdojeon, and Doctor Stranger, involving a gifted North Korean defector doctor, became popular. The concern was that information from the outside world could influence residents and pose a threat to the leadership.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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