‘South Korean TV shows part of North Korean life’

Michelle Cho, Dec. 28, 2016, 9:15 a.m.


South Korean TV shows are changing the way North Koreans converse, according to a high-ranking North Korean official who defected to the South in August.

Thae Yong-ho, once the No. 2 official at Pyongyang’s embassy in London, met with South Korean reporters for the first time Tuesday, during which time he shared how the North Korean people are stuck on the Korean Wave.

“Every North Korean I know has watched South Korean shows,” Thae told reporters.

Thae said he himself is a fan of period flicks, “Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-shin,” “Jeong Do-jeon” and “Six Flying Dragons.”

The North Korean official surprised the audience by being able to list the names of South Korean TV shows at a heart’s beat.

Other TV dramas that gained traction among the general North Korean crowd, according to Thae, included romance works “Autumn in my Heart,” “Winter Sonata” and “Full House.”

The few dramas that discuss North Korean defectors’ assimilation stories in the South, one being this year’s “Blow Breeze,” were especially favorites in the North.

According to Thae, the South Korean shows have influenced younger North Koreans to adopt South Korean terminology in their everyday lives.

“The way they call each other when they date, ‘Jagi-ya’ and ‘Oppa-ya,’ did not exist in North Korea prior to the influx of South Korean entertainment contents,” Thae said, referring to South Korean terms of endearments.

Pyeongyang’s crackdown on the phenomenon has been to no avail.

“The two things the regime is failing to control are drugs and South Korean dramas,” Thae said.

According to Thae, North Korean diplomats stationed abroad check the South Korean press every morning for news regarding North Korea.

He said, “The North Korean system can only last as long as it can completely block off all information from the outside world.”

“When the day comes when people have access to the information that has been censored, North Korea will come crumbling down like an earthen wall soaking wet.” 

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