Saturday, September 13, 2008

South Korean Pop Culture Reaches Into North Korea

The popularity of South Korean movies and dramas has spread throughout Asia - including North Korea, which strictly bans watching foreign television programs.

Byun Nan-hee is a North Korean refugee who has lived in Seoul since 2002. In the North, she says, television programs did only one thing: glorify the government and its leaders. Twenty-eight-year-old Byun says the government uses the media to brainwash people by painting a picture that the outside world is much poorer than they are.

But her indoctrination began to unravel in 1997, when she and her two brothers crossed the border into China, in search of food and medicine. There, for the first time, she watched South Korean television. Byun could not believe what she saw. She says she had never intended to go to South Korea. But after seeing the TV programs, she changed her mind.

With the help of a South Korean human rights group, she was smuggled through China to Thailand, and finally to South Korea.

Now North Koreans are not only exposed to South Korean media while in China, but also in their hometowns. North Korean TV sets and radios are fixed to receive only government channels. But smuggled in videotapes and DVDs are hot commodities on the black market.

[Excerpt of an article by Jason Strother,Voice of America]

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