Monday, September 28, 2009

HAEUNDAE Tsunami Floods North Korea

Channel News Asia is reporting that North Korea is cracking down on foreign films after a university student was caught watching HAEUNDAE on his computer.

The student reportedly downloaded the film while at a relative's house in Chongjin, in northeastern North Korea. He then took the film back to Pyongyang to watch with his dormitory friends.

North Korea has been awash in pop culture from South Korea for several years, something NK authorities have mostly ignored, much as it mostly ignored the many markets that had sprung up around the country. But recently the North's government has started cracking down on those markets, so apparently South Korean pop culture has got to go, too.

Why is South Korean culture so dangerous to the North? Some, like Andrei Lankov, argue that seeing South Korea's material prosperity makes the North look bad by comparison. Others, like Brian Myers, say the danger is in not in seeing the South's material success (which most people in the North already know), but in seeing that South Koreans do not all yearn to be part of one united Korea, under the care of the North and Dear Leader. Whatever the reasoning, the effects are much the same.

On the other hand, this story claimed that South Korean pop culture has been losing its cache in the North for some time now, so maybe the crackdown is not such a big deal. But I suspect that story overstates the situation.

Anyhow, I do find it amusing that an illegal download of the blockbuster HAEUNDAE (now the fourth-biggest film of all time in Korea, with 11.4 million admissions) had the capacity to create so much trouble north of the DMZ.

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