Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

US hip hop performers film video in DPRK

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

UPDATE 4 (2014-1-8): You can see the video here:

UPDATE 3 (2014-1-7): The Guardian offers additional information on the rap video trip here:

Pacman and Peso have granted the Guardian an exclusive preview of the video – as well as their first interview about an adventure in the world’s most despotic regime.

The genesis of their music video was a random encounter earlier this year with Ramsey Aburdene, a 25-year-old Washington-based investment banker who liked their music and became their manager. Aburdene had a friend who used to be in the military and specialises in getting people into Pyongyang, so they hatched the plan to shoot a rap video there.

No one involved in the trip could easily articulate why exactly North Korea was an appropriate backdrop for the music video. But they still managed to raise $10,400 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

Interviewed recently in Aburdene’s bedroom in a shared house in Mount Pleasant, Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, recounted their surreal, eye-opening experiences in North Korea.

They managed to film their rap video inside Pyongyang’s faltering metro, beside the demilitarized zone bordering South Korea, on a rice farm and in front of various North Korean monuments, not least the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, an ornate mausoleum for Kim Il-sung, the so-called founder and eternal president of the country, and his son, Kim Jong-il.

Before arriving in North Korea, the group took part in a tour through Asian countries including China, Hong Kong and Mongolia. But it almost began in disaster in Beijing, when the rap entourage, which included some of Aburdene’s university friends, decided to hire motorcycles.

Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis, collided with a car near Tiananmen Square and, aware that he was not insured, fled. An angry crowd apprehended Pacman, whose real name is Anthony Bobb. “I was like, man, we ain’t going to North Korea. I’m gonna get locked up in Beijing,” Pacman recalls. “This shit gonna be on the news.”

After some ad-hoc diplomacy and a visit to a car repair shop, the group was let free, but missed their flight to Hong Kong, arriving late for the next leg of the journey – hosted by their main financial backer.

James Passin, a 41-year-old hedge fund manager who has poured millions of dollars in Mongolia, and also has business interests in North Korea, donated $5,100 to their Kickstarter campaign.

Described in BusinessWeek as ‘The American Who Bought Mongolia’, Passin was keen to be involved in the project. “He actually wanted to be in the North Korea video, but then his advisors told him it was probably better not to be,” Aburdene said.

Instead, Passin invited the rapping tour to Hong Kong, where he happened to be hosting his investor conference – and birthday celebration – in the Grand Hyatt hotel. Later, Passin flew the group to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. It was Peso’s favourite stop on the whole tour, not least because of the generous hospitality of their host. “The moment we arrived we got chauffeur rides to the hotel,” he said. “I had lobster with some fries while I was sipping on Sprite,” said Pacman.

Returning briefly to Beijing, the group picked up some tailored silk suits in preparation for North Korea. But by then the situation in Pyongyang had changed.

It was the end of November, and Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, had been detained in North Korea. The State Department strongly discouraged American citizens against visiting North Korea, the first warning of its kind since Pyongyang began allowing tourists into the country in 1995.

Pacman and Peso were being compared to Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star who has developed unlikely friendship with Kim Jong-un. Unlike Rodman, who is currently in Pyongyang accompanied by a fleet of former basketball players, the DC rappers did not have the blessing of Kim Jong-un, or indeed anyone else from North Korean officialdom.

Instead, they had always planned to travel beneath the radar, shooting their video under the cover of a sightseeing tour. With the five-day trip just hours away, the entourage began to realise that an interview with the BBC was probably not the best way to maintain a low-profile. Shortly before boarding, they read a Gawker article mentioning how, despite the State Department advice, “a much-publicized trip by two DC rappers, Pacman and Peso, is going ahead as planned.”

“All the buzz we were getting, I thought we were gonna get hemmed up, captured,” said Pacman. His rapping partner agreed: “I was like: uh-oh. Are we gonna make it?” They put their worries behind them and flew to Pyongyang regardless.

When the aircraft doors opened, they walked out to the sound of snapping cameras. “As soon as I seen cameras, I started being myself,” said Peso. “I started flipping my jacket open, smoking my cigarette in front of the cameras, turn[ing] round to make sure they got the suit.”

Despite the the flurry of attention from Associated Press journalists at the airport, the rappers succeeded in going largely unnoticed in North Korea.

Each day, Pacman and Peso hopped on a tourist bus, which ferried them to approved locations across the country in the company of government-sanctioned tour guides. So as not to attract attention, they used a small, Canon camera to shoot video, filming segments surreptitiously whenever their minders were looking the other way. Microphones, headphones, or amplified music were out of the question. Instead, they improvised. “We were just spitting the voice that was in our head,” Peso said. “It was just work, work, work, non-stop.”

They were not helped by the sub-zero temperatures and snow. There was rarely heating in any of the buildings and the silk suits provided little comfort. “One of the North Koreans, he gave me his coat,” Pacman said. “I asked him if he wanted it back, and he was like, ‘Nah, just keep it for the rest of the night.’”

Memories such as that left both young men with a positive experience of North Korea. They still speak about their recollections in dreamy monologues. “The old ladies looked like they were carrying the heaviest things. The army people walking down the street had guns,” said Pacman. “You see a whole bunch of rice fields. People was riding bikes. The little kids was walking down the street by themselves, they must have been in first grade. But everybody waved.”

One month on, both Pacman and Peso say they still feel energised by their journey to North Korea. They look and sound more animated than before they departed, when the anxiety was showing on their faces. “No-one has made a music video in North Korea before. Or even thought about it,” Peso said proudly. Pacman said his rapping had improved since their return. “It sounds stronger, the words are coming faster, quicker,” he said.

Smiling, he remembers the elation he felt when they departed Pyongyang. “The first thing I thought was: we made it out,” he said. “We beat the odds.”

UPDATE 2 (2013-12-1): According to the Associated Press:

The two rappers said their trip shied away from politics.

“I mean we did not go there to be political. We just go down there to shoot our video and that about the reason why we went, not political,” said Pacman – whose real name is Anthony Bobb.

The duo from the Washington area spoke to reporters at an airport in Beijing upon their return from a five-day trip to North Korea.

“Nobody shot a video in North Korea, let alone thought of it. Nobody even thought of making a video in North Korea. You know what I’m saying?” said Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis.

More in The Guardian.

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-8): According to the Guardian:

Pacman and Peso have never traveled much beyond the poor suburb of Washington DC where they live. But after a successful internet fundraising drive, the unsigned hip-hop duo will next Saturday embark on a trip, to shoot a video they hope will jumpstart their career, with an unlikely destination – North Korea.

After raising $10,400 from their  Kickstarter campaign, the pair will first fly to China and then on to Pyongyang, where they plan to film songs such as “God Bless Amerika” on a party bus.

Neither of them have flown on an airplane. They say they only recently discovered that North Korea was a foreign country.

Comparisons are inevitably being made with Dennis Rodman, the former basketball player whose visits to North Korea resulted in an unlikely friendship with the country’s dynastic leader, Kim Jong-un. But Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, unsigned artists in search of a record deal to lift them out of poverty, are on the cusp of a very different kind of trip.

The story of the rap duo’s adventure could only be forged in a place like Washington, a deeply divided city where separated communities only occasionally overlap. A few months ago, Pacman was walking through his neighbourhood, Congress Heights, when he came across a group of twentysomethings shooting a music video. He struck up a friendship with one of the group, a white, 24-year-old investment banker named Ramsey Aburdene, who has since been managing the pair in his spare time.

Aburdene, from DC’s affluent north-west quadrant, had an acquaintance who happened to be an expert on North Korea. Mike Bassett, 34, is a former Iraq war veteran who was lived for seven years in South Korea, four of them with the US army.

A self-described pacifist, Bassett has become a fixer for people interested in traveling to Pyongyang. A Master’s student at American University, he has coordinated several cultural exchanges and traveled extensively in the country since restrictions were eased in 2010.

He has arranged the two rappers’ flights and visas, and laid the necessary groundwork for their tour. Bassett insists North Korea is misunderstood in the eyes of the west, and says Pacman and Peso will be treated with courtesy. Still, he has felt it necessary to provide the young rappers with some cultural advice, and instructed them to amend some of their lyrics.

An entourage consisting of Pacman, Peso, Bassett and Aburdene, plus other friends, departs next Saturday. At their leaving party in Washington on Thursday, in a bar near Aburdene’s house, Peso and Pacman provided well-wishers with an introduction to their debut mixtape.

Once or twice, the crowd broke out into chants of “North Korea”. But no-one really seemed to know exactly why the pair were traveling to the autocratic state, least of all Pacman and Peso. “I’m a thrill-seeker, I don’t fear nothing,” said Pacman, a smiley, baby-faced teenager whose real name is Anthony Bobb. “I like an action movie. I can’t sit and watch a drama flick – it takes too long.”

Pacman said people keep telling him not to go; his aunt tried to talk him out of the trip and his mum told to him to watch his back. “Me personally, I don’t pay too much to politics, so I can’t say what is right. Then again, who is to say what is right and what is wrong?”

His serious-looking partner Peso, from Landover, said: “I’m excited – the only thing I’m not excited about is the plane.” He added: “We’re changing the game. Nobody has shot a video in North Korea like we’re about to do.”

Asked if he was worried for his safety, Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis, replied: “You don’t think this is a dangerous place to be living at right now? There’s your answer, then.”

The idea that Pacman and Peso are just as likely to be subject to arbitrary detention, arrest and mistreatment in the streets around their home as Pyongyang has become a theme in the promotion surrounding their trip. It was the thrust of a piece profiling the pair in the Washington Post, which helped them easily surpass their fundraising goal of $6,000. The 4,000-word feature gave the pair huge exposure in the city, not least because the reporter interviewing them, Monica Hesse, was stopped and searched by police in the process.

“We’re not trying to be political heroes or anything like that,” said Aburdene. “We understand there is terrible stuff going on in North Korea, but there is terrible stuff going on here that people aren’t straight up about.”

Both Pacman and Peso have spent time in jail for minor offences. There is no doubt their day-to-day lives are not comparable to that of of the predominantly white community that is fast gentrifying America’s capital.

Aburdene said that he trusts Bassett when it comes to protecting the party’s safety in North Korea. He is not worried they will be detained, but is concerned their footage might get confiscated and said he realised they may need to tread carefully. “Even if it’s not a standard, crazy, party-like thing, I’ll enjoy the anthropological side,” he said.

But beneath the bravado, there appears to be at least a hint of anxiety on the part of the two young rappers.

At one point during a pre-show interview, Peso seemed only half-joking when he talked about the pair maybe being killed in North Korea. “If we don’t die, it will probably be a big life-changer,” he said.

He looked a little uncertain, before adding: “Can I ask you a question? What do you think is going to happen when we go over there?

ORIGINAL POST (2013-9-18): US hip hop performers to film video in DPRK. According to the Washington Post:

A few weeks ago, a Kickstarter project was posted on the Internet featuring two young men who went by the names of Pacman and Peso. The duo and their producer were using the crowdsourcing site to raise money for a creative endeavor; they wanted to make a music video. A rap music video. They wanted to do it on a karaoke party bus. They needed only $6,000, a fairly modest sum, considering that this estimate also included lodging and two overseas flights. The video, you see, was going to be filmed in Pyongyang.

North Korea.

Rappers Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, are raising $6,000 to make a music video. They want to do it on a karaoke party bus in Pyongyang, North Korea. Here, they spend time in the District and Maryland, making music and spending time with family and friends.

“This trip will be a fantastic opportunity for Pacman and Peso to meet young, dynamic people and significantly broaden their horizons,” read the proposal, which was posted Aug. 30, “in addition to jump starting their musical careers.” The title was straightforward and surreal: “Pacman & Peso Make a Music Video in North Korea.”

So, yes, it sounds weird. Two African American youths from Southeast D.C. and Prince George’s County have paired with a white part-time producer from Northwest D.C., and they all want to go to North Korea because they see it as their best shot at a better future. Call Christopher Guest. Call Dave Chappelle. Someone is pulling your chain.

Unless, of course, it’s real. Unless it’s complicated. Unless it’s a whimsical windmill-tilt of a heartbreak.

“My goal was to rap,” says Peso, 20, whose real name is Dontray Ennis. If it wasn’t that, it was football. “But other than that, it was either doing wrong in the streets, or getting locked up.”

“This is my only option now,” he says of North Korea. “If it was to work.”

Read more here.


Friday Fun: A little bit of everything

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

1. A valued reader sends in these photos taken in the DPRK:


The photo on the left was taken in an elevator. Read all of the regulations–they get better and better.

The photo on the right is an advert for the Pugang Pharmaceutical Factory’s “Kumdang-2 Injection”.  It is your best choice for “Radioactive Damages”.

2. Xinhua (the Chinese state media) reports “Girls dress fashionably in DPRK”. Judge for yourself here: Part 1 and Part 2. Apologies to the female readers that there has yet to be published a “Men dress fashionably in DPRK”.  If such a story is published, I promise to link to it.

Ray Cunningham has a DPRK women’s fashion photo set as well. See it here.

Choson Exchange has some DPRK fashion photos here and here.

3. YouTube user “Tyrlop” has provided English subtitles to many North Korean songs. So far, my favorite is the very catchy “The General Uses Wharp!

4. Norway launches their first mass games.  Not nearly as impressive as the DPRK version.

5. The Onion reports on the ways that US-DPRK relations are improving [satire].

6. Earlier I posted information on the Unhasu Orchestra’s performace in Paris this week. Listen to the performance here. Watch it here.  It is beautiful.


Unhasu Orchestra in Paris

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) Unnhasu Theater in Pyongyang where the Unhasu Orchestra normally performs.  (R) The Salle Pleyel in Paris where the Unhasu played their first overseas concert.

You can listen to the performance here.

You can watch the performance here.

Here is KCTV coverage of the performance.

Media on the performance below.



DPRK takes steps to reduce access to foreign media

Monday, February 13th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

A new unit was formed in mid-January to deal with the amount of ‘illegal’ media circulating in North Korea.

“Unit 114 has been formed following a January 14th order handed down by General Kim calling for a concentrated crackdown on suspicious songs, recorded materials and impure published media,” a source from Yangkang Province told Daily NK on the 12th.

The source went on, “The unit has been organized by the Propaganda Department of the central Party, but the interesting thing is that it also contains people from the National Security Agency.” Interesting, the source noted, because such units, also a very regular feature of the Kim Jong Il era, are commonly made up of people dispatched by the central Party. Indeed, there is already Unit 109 similarly charged with dealing with inflows of outside media.

In addition, the format of the unit’s activities is in marked contrast to some of the past, the source said. “These inspections have not been announced in people’s unit meetings and, since the inspectors are circulating undercover in the jangmadang, people are much more frightened,” she explained. “Someone who was caught selling CDs in the area in front of the jangmadang here told me that the investigation was done by an NSA agent and someone from the central Party Propaganda Department.”

According to the source, the trader in question was selling copies of a recently released North Korean film, ‘Brotherly Love’, when he came under suspicion. Even though it is a North Korean film which portrays Chinese troops in the Korean War and the lives of North Koreans at the time, the trader nevertheless got in trouble because the film was copied rather than being an original.

“The trader made and signed a written statement saying ‘I will not sell copied films again’ and so was let go, but as he was leaving he was asked by an NSA agent to report people possessing or selling South Chosun films and songs or American films. He got really shocked by the experience, and is now at home resting up,” the source said.

“A lot of traders who used to make a living selling CDs are now in hiding. The investigation is harsh, so people with experience selling South Korean CDs in the past are hiding to avoid getting caught.”

Read the full story here:
More Pressure on Illicit Media
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


Pyongyang seeing more inspections

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

With the border area enveloped in ‘Storm Trooper Unit’ inspections, operations against South Korean goods have been stepped up in distant Pyongyang, according to a man from the city who talked to the Daily NK in Dandong, China on Tuesday.

“Inspections by ‘Group 109’, which has been around for a while, have gradually become more intense,” the man, Kim, explained. “Worst of all, they are showing up in the middle of the night without warning to search for CDs, DVDs and recorders, and if there are any materials such as pornography or South Korean merchandise, then the offender is taken away. There are no exceptions.”

“In the past when the National Security Agency or People’s Safety Ministry came to inspect, people would pay them to let it slide, but nowadays the authorities send an agent from both of those agencies and the Defense Security Command as a team, which makes it hard to get out of it if you get caught,” he added.

A Daily NK source from Pyongyang confirmed the story, saying that as recently as July one could escape Group 109 punishment for watching South Korean or American DVDs with a bribe of $100 in central Pyongyang, or less in the surrounding areas.

Group 109 is an organization set up by the Chosun Workers’ Party to crack down on illegal media including CDs and DVDs. The group is one of a number of ‘Gruppas’, as they are locally known, currently operating in the capital, with others including Group 622, which handles juvenile delinquency, and Group 27, actually a branch of the Defense Security Command, which deals with mobile phone usage.

The various groups have been conducting their assorted inspections to weed out myriad ‘anti-socialist’ behavior for some time, but bribery has always provided an escape route, albeit while those without money or connections were made an example of. However in recent times, allegedly since successor Kim Jong Eun ordered more intense inspections and punishments, the ‘Gruppas’ have had to take their tasks more seriously.

The volume of South Korean goods trading in the market has contracted due to the recent crackdowns, but their popularity is undiminished; evasion of inspections is apparently being achieved via house calls to trusted clients. Kim says that the preference is only getting stronger for South Korean goods amongst cadres, a group which has always been safe from inspections.

“The traders go around the city knocking on people’s doors, quietly asking whether the residents would like to buy some South Korean merchandise. For this reason the nickname ‘knock-knocker’ is sometimes used to refer to them,” Kim explained.

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang Seeing Tighter Inspections
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


Friday Grab Bag

Friday, March 11th, 2011

North Korean market footage
Kim Song Min  (김성민), founder of Free North Korea Radio, has posted some video footage of a North Korean market.

You might be able to see it here, but I make no promises. It definitely won’t work from China.

Nothing remarkable, but interesting.  Of course the market is dominated by female vendors.  Bread and dried squid were for sale.  Also, shoe shines seemed to be popular.

I wish I knew what people were saying in the background.

North Korean Legos
The Russian  blogger that brought us the DPRK’s Linux OS, the DPRK’s PDA device, and the DPRK’s film camera, now brings us the DPRK version of Legos:

Interestingly, the toys come with instructions in both English and Korean.  Maybe the producers are hoping for an opportunity to export in the future?  Finally some actual socialist building blocks behind which the children of the world can unite!  You can read more in Russian here.  You can read more in English here (via Google Translate)

Pyongyang Metro Photos
Most visitors to the DPRK visit the Puhung and Yongwang Metro Stations.  Satellite images here and here. Google has also cataloged lots of pictures pictures of these stations: Puhung, Yongwang.

The Ponghwa Metro Station is located at  39.012100°, 125.744452°–next to the Party Founding Museum.  This station is not visited by foreigners as often, but here are some photos: One, two, three, four.

The Kaeson Metro Station is next door to the Arch of Triumh (39.043059°, 125.754027°).  A friend sent some North Korean postcards that seem to come from this station, though the pictures look like they were taken in the 1970s: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

Pyongyang goes pop: sex scandal on the socialist music scene
According to a story in The Guardian:

There was mild controversy last year when a secret video featuring Wangjaesan’s female dance troupe entered the public domain. The video was being privately circulated among the elite, but reached the North Korean public before making it over the border to China – and therefore the world. Normally seen in traditional, body-cloaking hangbok dresses as they perform polite folk numbers, this little clip revealed unprecedented levels of sexiness in Pyongyang, as the girls popped up in sparkly hot pants and did the splits. Western displays of decadence like this are illegal but, given Kim Jong-il’s alleged love of pornography, perhaps he turned a blind eye to this one.

The video of the dancers can be found here (though it is a VERY slow download) or you can watch it on YouTube here and here.  I could not find a better version this time around.  Here is the original story in Yonhap (2009-11) when the story broke (with picture).

UPDATED: This video is allegedly of the same group.

The 4 of 31 fishermen
I have not spent much time blogging about the 4 of 31 North Korean fishermen who drifted to the South and do not wish to return to the DPRK.  I did track down the six videos the North Koreans filmed with the family members.  They were posted to YouTube by Uriminzokkiri.  See them here: One, two, three, four, five, six. If anyone can translate these, or give us a rough idea, I would apprecaite it.

KFA sets up branch in Israel!
Alejandro Cao de Benos seeks to build sympathy for the DPRK among the Israelis.


Kim Jong-chol still likes Eric Clapton

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Back in 2006, Kim Jong-il’s second known son, Kim Jong-chol (김정철), was photographed at an Eric Clapton concert in Germany.  Well, according to Yonhap, he is still a fan today:

Kim Jong-chol, the second son of Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-il, was seen at a concert by world-renowned guitarist Eric Clapton in Singapore, a South Korean broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

Kim, dressed in black pants and a T-shirt, was accompanied by some 20 men and women at a concert hall in Singapore on Feb. 14, two days ahead of his father’s birthday, according to Korea Broadcasting System (KBS).

UPDATE: some pictures and apparently Kim Jong Chol’s sister: Choson IlboDaily NK

Read the full story here:
N. Korean leader’s 2nd son seen in Singapore: KBS


ROK goods saturate DPRK

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

According to the Hankyorey:

A report on major North Korean indicators released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday revealed that South Korean products are becoming increasingly popular in North Korea, and that there are hardly any North Korean urban youth who do not watch South Korean TV dramas or movies.

In the report, Statistics Korea said it is becoming a fad for young people in major North Korean cities like Pyongyang and along the border with China to watch South Korean television dramas and films using MP3 players or laptop computers. Statistics Korea said MP3 players with 1G of memory cost 60,000 North Korean Won (estimated $419), while a used laptop costs about 2 million North Korean Won. A memory chip with two or three movies costs 10,000 North Korean Won if it is an original, and 5,000 North Korean Won if its a copy.

The report also said many South Korean products are in circulation in North Korea, including blenders, portable heaters, gas ranges, butane cans, lunch trays, gas heaters, rice cookers, dishrags and gloves. According to the report, South Korean shampoo and conditioner is popular with the wives of high-ranking North Korean officials in Pyongyang. Some 470g bottles of South Korean shampoo and rinse go for 40-50 yuan (8,000-10,000 South Korean Won) in Pyongyang. The report said the popularity of South Korean products was also reflected in other goods. South Korean necklaces are sold for about $500 and earrings for about $70-80, while South Korean products like perfume, deodorant, car air fresheners, refrigerator deodorizer and bathroom air fresheners are also selling well.

South Korea’s nominal GNI in 2009 was $837.2 billion, 37.4 times that of North Korea’s $22.4 billion. North Korea’s economic power, all told, is no more than the level of the South Korean city of Gwangju (about 22 trillion Won). South Korea’s per capita income of $18,175 was 17.9 times that of North Korea’s $960. South Korea also conducted $686.6 billion in total trade, 201.9 times that of North Korea, which conducted only $3.4 billion. The only sectors in which North Korea topped South Korea were production of iron ore and coal and length of railroads. North Korea’s iron ore production was 4.955 million tons, ten times that of South Korea (455,000 tons), and its coal production was 25.5 million tons, 10 times that of South Korea (2.519 million tons). North Korea also had 5,242km of railroads, 1.4 times that of South Korea’s 3,378km. North Korea is also believed to have 7 quadrillion Won in underground mineral wealth.

I have been unable to locate the original on the Statistics Korea page.  If any readers can find it, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
In limited N.Korean market, furor for S.Korean products
Hwangbo Yon


ROK court rules against possessing DPRK music

Monday, November 8th, 2010

According to the AFP:

South Korea’s top court ruled Monday that possession of instrumental music with titles praising North Korea violates a tough national security law.

The supreme court upheld a two-year jail term, suspended for four years, given to a female activist identified only as Song.

Song was charged in 2008 with storing 14 MP3 music files with titles praising North Korea on a USB storage device.

State prosecutors accused her of violating the law banning distribution of pro-North Korean material.

A district court acquitted Song, saying the titles alone could not define the songs as praising the communist North.

But an appeal court ruled that the songs written by North Korea to praise its leadership contained “enemy-benefiting” expressions and threatened the South’s security — regardless of their lack of lyrics.

The supreme court supported the appeals court, saying it took into consideration “motivation” and various other circumstances.

South Korea bans distribution of publications or other material praising North Korea and unauthorised contact with its people. Offenders can face heavy jail terms.

As citizens of a modern open democracy, I would hope many South Koreans are embarrassed by this kind of silly censorship.   I have dozens of North Korean songs on my iPod and not once have they influenced my opinion of the DPRK.  They have made me laugh, however.

If you would like to hear the DPRKs song about “CNC”, which was introduced to South Korean factories back in the 1970s, click here.

Read the full story here:
S.Korea court rules pro-North music breaches law


“The Cleanest Race” on C-Span

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Back in February, B.R. Myers, author of The Cleanest Race, gave a few talks in the US.  Apparently I missed all of them.

Luckily, C-Span recorded the one of the discussions for us all to see.  It is well worth watching in its entirety here.

You can order the book at Amazon here.

(hat tip to a reader)