BTS is one of South Korea’s most beloved exports. The group has topped the charts world over, broken all sorts of records, and found its way into the hearts of fans globally. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is not among those fans, though. According to internal documents smuggled out of North Korea by South Korea-based publication Daily NK and then made public by South Korean legislators (as reported by The New York Times), Jong-un thinks K-pop is a “vicious cancer.”
In the documents, Jong-un says the music corrupts the “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors” of young North Koreans. Furthermore, state media has declared that K-pop and other South Korean cultural exports will make North Korea “crumble like a damp wall” if left unchecked.
As The New York Times notes, “South Korean entertainment is now smuggled on flash drives from China, stealing the hearts of young North Koreans who watch behind closed doors and draped windows.” To combat this, North Korea enacted a new law in December that calls for five to 15 years in labor camps for those who watch or possess South Korean entertainment. Previously, the same crimes carried a maximum punishment of five years of hard labor. Furthermore, people who “speak, write or sing in South Korean style” could face up to two years of hard labor.”
Jiro Ishimaru — chief editor of Asia Press International, a Japanese website that monitors North Korea — told The New York Times, “To Kim Jong-un, the cultural invasion from South Korea has gone beyond a tolerable level. If this is left unchecked, he fears that his people might start considering the South an alternative Korea to replace the North.”