It is well known that the higher up in the North Korean class hierarchy a family is, the more access its members have to South Korean movies and dramas (the media grouped together internationally as ‘Hallyu’ or ‘Korean Wave’).
This was a view confirmed yesterday by Park Jung Ran of the Center for Cultural Unification Studies at the release of the center’s latest report, ‘Hallyu; The Wind of Unification’.
The center’s latest report is the sequel to last year’s ‘Hallyu; Shaking North Korea’ by Kang Dong Wan and Park Jung Ran. This time the two have surveyed 100 defectors, divided by region, class, gender and generation, in their renewed hunt for ‘Hallyu reality’.
“People in the financial upper class are getting more access to South Korean videos”, Park asserted. “Many watch every day, or at least once a week. It seems that the wealthy have financial freedom, so they like to watch South Korean videos.”
According to the results published in the report, 32% of men and 13% of women have experience of watching some kind of South Korean media, while people in their 40s, at 33.3%, have the most access overall. Unsurprisingly, people living along the Sino-North Korea border in North Hamkyung Province have the highest degree of access in geographical terms.
The event also involved a policy debate, reminding the audience that allowing North Koreans to have access to South Korean media may be good, but the question of what kind of media to give access to is also important.
On this, Park noted, “Hallyu has both good and bad elements. It is positive in that the North Koreans can learn more about and empathize with South Korean society; however, it can give them a negative impression if they view pornographic or violent videos.”
Jeon Hyun Jun, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification who was at the event as a panelist, agreed, saying, “The lower down the classes one goes, the more conservative and hostile towards South Korea one seems to be. Because fantastical and violent content can lead to adverse effects, the government needs to take the lead in strategic policy to spread diverse genres among the lower classes.”
Nevertheless, Kang was confident that media access is a critical area that must be focused on.
“Although data is now being shared through new mediums such as USBs, how much is needed to generate systemic change is still a point of interest,” he said. “Shared awareness and cultural exchanges between the two Koreas could prove to be the road to unification.”