The slang words North Korea wants to ban to curb ‘foreign influence’

·3-min read
Kim Jong-un has called South Korea’s pop culture a ‘vicious cancer’ (AFP)
Kim Jong-un has called South Korea’s pop culture a ‘vicious cancer’ (AFP)

North Korea’s state media has told the country’s young people to speak in its traditional language to curb the influence of South Korean pop culture.

State-owned newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned millennial readers against the “dangers” of adopting South Korean slang, fashion, hairstyles and pop culture.

“The ideological and cultural penetration under the colourful coloured [sic] signboard of the bourgeoisie is even more dangerous than enemies who are taking guns,” it said.

North Korea, in recent months, has made efforts to stamp out any “foreign influence” from spreading in the country.

This especially includes South Korean television dramas, K-pop music videos and movies that are increasingly being consumed the world over. But K-pop finds a way – the music and videos from the South are reportedly being smuggled into the country on flash drives across the Chinese border.

Earlier, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, called neighbouring South Korea‘s pop culture a “vicious cancer” corrupting young North Koreans. He had said that, if left unchecked, this “foreign influence” would make North Korea “crumble like a damp wall”.

Rodong Sinmun said Korean language based on the Pyongyang dialect is “superior” and that young people should use it correctly. It also said that slang used in South Korea should not be used by young people, nor should language from any other country.

The country’s official newspaper also issued a warning against dressing like South Koreans, listening to music by South Korean artists, or getting hairstyles similar to their South Korean counterparts.

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Those who are found to breach the law can face a jail term or even execution, the BBC reported. People found with large amounts of media from South Korea, Japan or the US face the prospect of a potential death penalty, while those caught watching such media could face a 15-year jail term.

​​“Korean dramas and films have entered the country and the young North Korean generation is influenced by them, such as fashion styles and the way they talk,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Centre for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, to the Korea Herald newspaper.

“Such transformation is visible in the country and Kim sees this could threaten the North Korean system,” Dr Cheong said.

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Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said that Kim Jong-un was “well aware” of how western culture or K-pop could permeate into the psyche of the younger generation and have a “negative impact on its socialist system”.

“Kim, who was educated in Switzerland... knows that these cultural aspects could impose a burden on the system. So, by stamping them out, Kim is trying to prevent further troubles in the future,” he added.

Meanwhile, NK News, a US-based website that provides news and analysis on North Korea, said in a report that the country’s secret police routinely raids the homes of those suspected of having watched foreign media.

“Secret police conduct raids on homes where people are suspected of having watched programs on DVDs or USBs that have been smuggled into the country from China or sent over the border attached to balloons released in the South by defectors,” the report said.

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