Recent North Korean defectors say that in North Korea, the typical resident might watch half an hour of television news about how Kim Jong Il, the national leader, spent his day. They might spend another hour watching popular dramas, often involving the fate of the nation - assuming the electricity supply allows.
But in their first 6 to 12 months in South Korea, they said, they spent at least three hours a day watching television: talk shows, reality shows, quiz shows. They said they paid closest attention to news and dramas, because they thought these provided the most useful portrayals of South Korean society.
The hope was that by using television to study the differences between the two countries before daring to face actual South Koreans, they could reduce the chances of embarrassment.
For example, Kim Heung Kwang, 49, a former computer science teacher said it was only by watching a television movie that he learned that a host should offer his guests a drink.
"Not only must I offer something to drink," he said, "but ask if they want coffee or tea and whether they want sugar or milk, and then how many spoonfuls."