As One: more than a movie

 

With the 2012 London Olympics currently in progress, I thought I’d write about sports. Just in time for the international event, a movie was released this past May simply titled As One. It is based on the true story of Korea’s first unified sports team since the division, an event that brought patriotism and hope to the entire Korean Peninsula.

In February 1991, North and South Korean officials met at Panmunjum at the North-South border to make agreements on forming a unified soccer and table tennis team. Everything was decided on at this meeting. The flag was to be the unification flag, a blue Korean peninsula on a white background, and the anthem was to be the famous Korean folk song Arirang. And in April that same year, both the North and South Korean table tennis teams left for Japan to participate in the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships as the first ever unified Korean team since the division of the peninsula. History was in the making. Continue reading

Foreign Media in North Korea

I wrote an article a while back on the impact of South Korean media in North Korea and how big its role has become. Well, to say the least, the amount of access North Koreans have to foreign news and media content is the highest it’s ever been. And, more importantly, it’s making a difference.

A recent study conducted by InterMedia and commissioned by the U.S. State Department on the impacts of foreign media within North Korea says that although North Korea still remains as the world’s most reclusive country, “ the [North Korean] government’s ability to control the flow information is receding.”

The government still has laws against accessing foreign media but much of it relies on citizens reporting on each other. However, with less people willing to turn their neighbors in, the government is losing its power. A Korean would even say that the North Korean government has become like a tiger with a loud roar but very little teeth to do any damage. Of course, North Koreans are still smart about their actions and are still wary of government inspection teams but the thing that has changed the most is that people are more open to sharing their movies and dramas with each other instead hiding it in fear. Continue reading

In the News – Winds of Unification Still Blowing…

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In the News – Winds of Unification Still Blowing…

▲ Yesterday’s launch event for ‘Hallyu; The Wind of Unification’ opened at Seoul Club on the 27th. (© DailyNK)

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.”