*

 

7.28.2009

korean dramas will reunify the peninsula

Everybody knows that Korean dramas have a powerful lure. I don't know what it is, but anyone who has gotten caught up watching them can tell you that they can get downright addictive. So this article actually isn't remarkably surprising: NKoreans Risking Lives for SKorean Soap Operas.

According to a new report, in North Korea -- one of the world's most isolated and repressive nations -- more and more people have been found smuggling bootleg video tapes of South Korean dramas, by way of China. They're holding illicit screenings across Pyongyang or swapping tapes.

If they get caught, some pay off security agents who turn a blind eye in favor of cash -- or let them join them in watching the banned dramas. The draw of South Korean movies and music -- widely known across Asia as hallyu, or the "Korean Wave" -- is just that powerful. It's fascinating.

The trend has the government worried enough that they've been cracking down on the bootlegs. Teams of North Korean agents known as "109 squads" are sweeping through border towns at night, arresting smugglers and confiscating banned South Korean material.

Basically, the North Korean government is losing its tight grip on the flow of information, and it's freaking them out. Who would have known that outside influence would come in the form of South Korea soap operas?

A few years back, I visited South Korea and was part of a group that got to meet former president Kim Dae-jung. In his speech to us, even he suggested that the Korean Wave -- South Korean dramas, film, music -- would play an important in role in ultimately re-unifying the people of the Korean peninsula (that is, in addition to careful international diplomacy) by indirectly reaching out to the North through culture. That's the power of hallyu.