From seemingly endless lines of marching ground troops to oversized portraits of their leader, North Korea’s government have utilized every single method imaginable to ensure that everyone is loyal to their supreme leader. North Korea’s entertainment industry is no exception from this.
The Government Produces Them All
Kim Sung-Il, who founded the nation, enacted the Monolithic Ideological System in 1967. The system is composed of principles that enforce the citizens to adhere without reservations to the ideologies of their supreme leader. This system became the foundation of all propaganda materials including the arts.
As such, all music and films produced within the country are government sanctioned. Moreover, the themes of these songs and movies are centralized with the country’s main dogma: self-independence.
Such was the story of the most celebrated North Korean film, The Flower Girl. In 1972, The Mansudae Art Troupe, the country’s premier musician group, performed an opera entitled The Flower Girl. The opera is about the oppression during the Japanese occupation in the country and was written by Kim Il-Sung himself. It was adapted into a film and became a huge success that the film’s lead actress, Hong Yong-hee, became a face in the country’s bank note.
Another propaganda material produced by the government is the song “Where Are You, Dear General?”. Performed by Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, this song is played throughout the country every single day at 6 AM to remind the citizens of their pledge to their supreme leader.
Anything from South Korea is Illegal
With the global boom of South Korean music and dramas, some of it found its way into neighboring North Korea. As you might have guessed, all of these have been deemed illegal by the government. Possession of any song, drama, or movie from South Korea is considered treason with punishment ranging from slavery to even death.
But this did not stop the resistive part of the population from enjoying K-pop. Defectors from North Korea shared how the younger population would sneak in kpop songs and dramas through USB. The safest way for them to enjoy South Korean music remains that of playing the guitar as they can easily switch to a more nationalistic one when a stranger comes into the room.
Government Uses Entertainers to Boost International Relations
Last year, in an act believed by the international community as groundbreaking, North Korea sent participants in the Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In addition, they also sent performers for the said event.
Among those sent was the Moranbong Band, which is a group of women hand-picked by their supreme leader and performs nationalist songs. Some of the members are from the military. It is said that the Moranbong Band is North Korea’s response to the surging popularity of South Korea’s kpop bands. The band also acts as the country’s ambassador as it performs in various global events and goodwill visit such as in Beijing.