North Korea has launched a major crackdown on foreign films and “decadent” western hairstyles and clothing such as skinny jeans.
North Korea has launched a major crackdown on foreign influence, with harsh punishments for anyone caught watching banned films or sporting “decadent” western hairstyles or clothing such as ripped or skinny jeans.
The reclusive dictatorship has long sought to prevent the spread offrom other countries, particularly from its immediate neighbour – South Korean TV shows, films and pop music are popular in North Korea and are commonly passed around on USB sticks.
Late last year, the regime stepped up its efforts with a sweeping new “anti-reactionary thought law” introducing harsh new penalties for spreading foreign media.
Anyone now caught with large amounts of media from South Korea, the US or Japan now faces the death penalty,, while even watching banned films can now land someone in a prison camp for 15 years.
The Daily NK, a South Korea-based website which uses sources inside North Korea, reports that a man was publicly executed by firing squad in April for selling CDs and USBs with South Korean movies, dramas, and music videos.
The website noted that young people are not immune from the law and that some sources even believe they are the main target, as they are the most suspectible to being influenced by foreign culture.
Earlier this month, six high school students – two boys and four girls – were each sentenced to five years at a re-education camp for watching South Korean dramas and spreading them among their classmates,.
It comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently wrote a letter in state media calling on the country’s Youth League to crack down on “unsavoury, individualistic, anti-socialist behaviour”, describing foreign slang, hairstyles and clothing as “dangerous poisons”.
Last month, the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned about the “invasion of capitalistic lifestyle” from theposing a threat to socialism, saying history showed that “a country can become vulnerable and eventually collapse like a damp wall regardless of its economic and defence power if we do not hold on to our own lifestyle”.
“We must be wary of even the slightest sign of the capitalistic lifestyle and fight to get rid of them,” the newspaper said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Under the crackdown, all but 15 approved “proper” hairstyles have been banned, including mullets and spiky or dyed hair. According to Metro, girlsgreen highlights were recently forced to go to hairdressers to remove them.
Nose and lip piercings have also been outlawed, along with western-style clothing including ripped or skinny jeans and branded T-shirts, according to a recent order from the Youth League, which often serves as the.
The Daily NK reported recently that three teenagers had been sent to a re-education camp for cutting their hair in the style of their K-pop idols and hemming their trousers above their ankles.
The latest crackdown on information and cultural influence is thought to be a reaction to the country’s deepening economic woes after sealing its border last year during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country is suffering from a food crisis, with “many households experiencing undernourishment or minimal levels of nutrition”, the Korea Development Institute think tank said in.
There are fears the shortages could lead to a repeat of the deadly 1990s famine. Dubbed the “Arduous March” by North Korean officials, the famine is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands, with some estimates in the millions.
In April, Mr Kim made a rare admission of looming hardship at a party conference, comparing the current situation to 1994-1998 event and calling on officials to “wage another, more difficult ‘Arduous March’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little”.
“We are hearing through our contacts that people there are suffering and dying,” human rights activist Young-chae Song from The World-Wide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea told the UK’s Telegraph earlier this week.
“The hunger they are experiencing is the direct result of massive economy mismanagement at the same time as they are spending on nuclear weapons and missiles. South Korea has offered to provide food and other aid, but the North has not even replied.”
North Korean defector Choi Jong-hoon told the BBC that “the harder the times, the harsher the regulations, laws, punishments become”.
“Psychologically, when your belly is full and you watch a South Korean film, it might be for leisure,” he said. “But when there’s no food and it’s a struggle to live, people get disgruntled.”