Young North Koreans have been warned to adhere to the nation’s standard language and follow “traditional lifestyles” as part of the regime’s campaign to stamp out cultural influences from neighboring South Korea.
In an editorial published on Sunday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, railed against the creeping influence of South Korea on everything from hairstyles to the spoken word.
“The ideological and cultural penetration under the colorful signboard of the bourgeoisie is even more dangerous than enemies who are taking guns,” it said, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Rather than mimic their peers in South Korea, young North Koreans should stick to their nation’s “superior” standard language, which is based on the dialect used in the capital, Pyongyang.
The newspaper said nothing less than the future of North Korea’s political system was at stake.
“When the new generations have a sound sense of ideology and revolutionary spirits, the future of a country is bright. If not, decades-long social systems and revolution will be perished. That is the lesson of blood in the history of the world’s socialist movement,” it said.
It is not the first time the regime has issued warnings against embracing South Korean popular culture, including K-pop, TV dramas, dress sense and even dance moves.
North Korea in December last year introduced a law designed to eliminate what it called reactionary thought and culture via illicit material from South Korea, the US and Japan. Anyone caught in possession of South Korean media could spend up to 15 years in a labor camp, while those found distributing contraband material face the death penalty.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was educated in Switzerland, has reportedly described K-pop as a “vicious cancer” that corrupts North Korean millennials — people in their 20s and 30s who grew up during the mid-1990s famine.
“Kim is well aware that K-pop or western culture could easily permeate through the younger generation and have a negative impact on the socialist system,” University of North Korea Studies professor Yang Moo-jin told the Korea Herald. “He knows that these cultural aspects could impose a burden on the system. So by stamping them out, Kim is trying to prevent further trouble in the future.”
A survey of 116 North Korean defectors last year by Seoul National University found that almost 48 percent had frequently watched South Korean TV and movies, and listened to its music, before they fled. Only 8.6 percent said that they had never consumed South Korean pop culture before they defected.
While North and South Koreans speak the same language, decades of separation have resulted in significant differences in dialect.
Among the officially banned expressions is oppa, which means “older brother,” but is often used to refer to a spouse or boyfriend in South Korea, a usage that has caught on among North Korean women, South Korea’s spy agency said.
Fashions and public displays of affection associated with South Korea are also forbidden, the agency added.
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