Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hallyu is Invading North Korea

A high-profile defector, former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho revealed that the spread of South Korean pop culture aided by the global technology boom, is changing the face of reclusive North Korea.
 
Hallyu or the Korean Wave refers to the popularity of South Korean popular culture, which has grown prominent and has spread far and wide in Asia. Whether dramas, movies, TV variety shows and/or K-pop – they all command large and loyal followings in Southeast Asian countries especially.
 
A sample of K-pop:

One of the most popular songs in Korea last year came out of the two members of Bolbbalgan4, as “Galaxy” became a surprise 2016 hit that overtook music charts. The song’s jazzy instrumentals meshed with electric melodies landed it firmly atop Korean music charts, and garnered the music video 14 million views since its release in August.

Male quintets are a mainstay to the K-pop industry, and boy band KNK has released a couple of singles and racked up millions of views on YouTube. The above song, their debut track “Knock” is a powerful dance pop track. 

YG Entertainment’s foursome BlackPink arrived on the K-pop scene in August 2016 with their forceful “Boombaya” and the hip-hop tune “Whistle” both of which landed on the World Digital Songs chart. They followed up their initial success with their Square Two EP, featuring “Playing with Fire” and “Stay”.
And with it, the inpouring of information cannot be held back. Not any more. 
 
North Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been diligently controlling the flow of information from the outside world. This is to back its propaganda about the self-proclaimed superiority of the Kim Jong-un regime and the supposed depraved and evil nature of other countries.
 
In fact, importing information from the outside world – which often take place on the sidelines of smuggling – is considered one of the worst crimes in the country.
 
But technological advances and growth of the black market in the hermit kingdom has made it more difficult to prevent the citizens from accessing outside media.
 
One of the most popular means of enjoying Hallyu is said to be Notetel, a type of portable media player that plays DVDs and enhanced versatile discs. It was legalised in 2014 under the condition that it is limited to certain channels of the regime’s choice.
 
Thae concedes that North Koreans working abroad have access to the Internet via smart devices – although the regime urges them not to. They are, however, prevented from conveying the information they learned to others, due to the authorities spying on them upon their return to North Korea.
 
Still, the regime’s control over the internet is crumbling, and Kim knows it, he alleges.
 
Exposure to South Korean culture is affecting North Korean lives as well.
 
Says Thae, young North Koreans even talk like South Koreans. Although the two Koreas have the same language, regional dialects and the 66-year separation of the two countries have resulted in their citizens speaking in a very different manner. But the North’s youth now use words like jagiya (honey), oppa (meaning older brother, but often used to refer to a boyfriend or spouse), kkk (the equivalent of LOL, a social media abbreviation for laughing out loud), which do not even exist in the North Korean language, he highlights.
 
“The Kim regime appears stable from the outside, but is rotting from the inside. ... We (North Koreans) hail Kim Jong-un during the day and watch South Korean films and dramas at night under blankets”, he shares, adding this is why Kim keeps such close tabs on the country’s elites and executes anyone who falls out of line.
 
Thae thinks the exposure to South Korean culture is slowly bringing the Kim regime down from the inside.
 
Therefore, there is really no need to overthrow a despotic government through violent means. Information technology is doing a good job of it! 
 
On Monday, Liverpool drew 2-2 with Sunderland in an EPL match that the Reds should have won.
 
Daniel Sturridge (19) and Sadio Mane (72) twice put the Reds ahead, but two Jermain Defoe penalties (25, 84) pegged them back.
 
This is a draw that feels like a defeat.
 
The statistics say Liverpool had 71% possession and had 15 shots on target. But the only stat that really matters is the final score. Sigh.
 
And yesterday, I was in Bandar Sri Damansara, Selangor. I presented my CC #8 speech titled "Pieces of Glass" at the Speecom Toastmasters meeting.

This is for the Competent Communication manual Round 39.

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