Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

North Koreans reportedly enjoy US films

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Young North Koreans apparently prefer American soaps and films to South Korean ones, and they can now watch both easily. A defector who gave his name as Kim (43) and used to sell TV sets in the North said, “Used color TVs imported from China have both PAL and NTSC options, so there’s no problem receiving South Korean TV signals,” even in remote South Hamgyong Province.

North Korea and China use the PAL format to receive TV signals, while South Korea and Japan use the NTSC format. Some European countries and the Middle East favor SECAM. Most models manufactured after the 1990s allow users to shift formats.

“In South Hamgyong Province, only a few households are able to capture TV signals, but reception is quite good in Hwanghae or South Pyongan provinces,” Kim said. “People there look forward to the evenings when dramas are broadcast.” He said North Koreans also enjoy watching news and current events programs as well and power their TVs with their car batteries during power outages.

Another defector surnamed Yoo (40), who used to sell DVDs in the North and came to South Korea late last year, said North Koreans have grown tired of South Korean TV soaps with their stereotypical plots. “Nowadays, ‘Rambo 4,’ ‘007 Casino Royale,’ and other American action films or TV dramas like ‘Prison Break’ are popular,” she added.

According to Yoo, South Korean TV soaps like “Winter Sonata,” “All In” or “Autumn in My Heart” were popular in the early 2000s, while “Jewel in the Palace” and other historical dramas grew popular in the late 2000s. Recently, action movies are gaining more attention.

North Koreans also prefer American movies to Korean ones. “Practically everyone knows ‘Titanic.'” The movie classic “Gone with the Wind” is popular among upper-class North Koreans in Pyongyang, while young people enjoy action films. “DVDs of American movies or TV dramas fetched the highest prices,” she said. “But now USBs with American TV programs are more popular than DVDs.”

Additional information:
1. Titanic is rumored to have been screened in Pyongyang cinemas.

2. Also, Tom and Jerry was shown on North Korean television in the 1980s. See here and here.

3. We have heard conflicting reports about just how tolerant the North Korean government is of foreign films.

Read the full story here:
N.Korean TV Viewers Favor American Shows
Choson Ilbo


“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)


Live television broadcasts in the DPRK

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

It was widely reported this weekend that Kim Jong-un attended a May Day Stadium rally, the Mass Games, a dance performace in in Kim Il-sung square, and military parade in Pyongyang—his first live public appearances in front of “ordinary” North Koreans. See videos of these events here: Mass Games, dance performancemilitary parade.  The military parade was broadcast live on North Korean television.  Communist countries rarely allow live television broadcasts (because things like this might happen).

So how rare is a live television broadcasts in the DPRK? The Daily NK published a short list :

The only previous events the North Korean media is known to have broadcast live are the performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Pyongyang in February, 2008 and two games in this year’s World Cup.

I was only aware of one World Cup 2010 game being shown live on North Korean television (the Portugal grudge match).  What was the other game?  Are you aware of any other live television broadcasts in the DPRK?

UPDATE: The two live football matches were DPRK v. Portugal (June 2010) and a qualifier between the DPRK and Iran (June 2009).  Hat tip to a reader.


DPRK unveils “Storm Tiger” tank

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

According to Strategy Page:

North Korean TV recently showed video of a new tank, called the Storm Tiger. South Korean officials call it the M2002, after the year they first became aware of it. The new North Korean tank appears to be based on the Russian T-62, an unsuccessful design that North Korea produced under license. The M2002/Storm Tiger was apparently developed in the 1990s, based on 1980s technology. It appears to be a 40 ton vehicle, a little longer than the T-62 and may have some modern electronics (beyond a laser range finder.) The North Koreans describe the vehicle as “modern”, but even if they have modern fire control (which China or Russia won’t give away and which North Korea cannot really afford to buy), they are several decades behind Western (and South Korean) tank technology. North Korea has about 4,000 tanks, most of them based on 1950s and 60s technology. About half of them are Russian T-62s (or North Korea variants of that design). Against modern tanks, the North Korea vehicles perform more as targets than adversaries.

North Korea imported 500 T-62s in the 1970s. Then, in the 1980s, North Korea produced 1,200 lighter and modified versions of the T-62 (as the Chonmaho). There were five different models, with later ones having the ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) and laser range finder.

Most Chonmaho tanks have since died of old age and lack of spare parts, with about 500 still available for service. This vehicle weighed 40 tons, had a four man crew, a 115mm gun (plus a 14.5mm and 7.62mm machine-guns) and added ERA. Top speed was 50 kilometers an hour and range on fuel carried was 450 kilometers. The original T-62 was an improved T-55, weighed 41.5 tons, entered service in 1961. Over 22,000 were eventually built, when production ended in 1975. There have been many improvements since. It is a simple tank, and over a thousand remain in service around the world. Russian T-62s most recently saw combat two years ago in Georgia. The T-62 can trace its design back to World War II. That’s because the T-54, which the T-62 evolved from (via the T-55), was developed in 1944. The basis for the T-54 was the T-44, an advanced model of the legendary T-34. The T-62, however, was the end of the line, in more ways than one.


Chongryun on YouTube?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

UPDATE: As noted in the comments and in this post, Uriminzokkiri is run by the North Koreans, not the Chongryun.


The pro-Pyongyang ethnic Korean community in Japan (Chongryun, Chosen Soren) has apparently opend a YouTube channel named “uriminzokkiri” (“On our own as a nation”) where they are uploading pro-DPRK and DPRK-made videos.

The Chongryun operate a number of web pages on behalf of themselves and the North Korean government (, Naenara,,, and more) all of which host video content.  So why open a YouTube account?  All these web pages are blocked in South Korea—so I am wondering if South Korean readers see these YouTube videos? 

UPDATE: Gag notes the following in the comments: “The ‘uriminzokkiri’ account is presumably run by the website of the same name, which links to it. The homepage lists two email addresses on, so I doubt that it’s run by the Chongryon either. (, which is in Japanese, has an email address on its own domain.)

I wonder also whether it is just a matter of time before the US Justice Department/Treasury Department goes knocking on YouTube’s door.  If this account is sponsored by the official Chonryon organization, the US government might have a problem with that.  I suspect, however, that the account is “maintained” by a “private” individual so that it cannot be construed as engagement in a business trade with the DPRK.  In the past, on line chat services owned by Yahoo and Linkedin have been asked to close accounts of individuals in sanctioned countries like the DPRK.  

As of now, the account hosts nearly 40 videos.  Unfortunatley not a single one is of the North Korean evening news.  The North Korean news is usually posted on, but has not been updated since July 26. Rather than running 10 pages poorly, they might consider consolidating and running 2 pages well!

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has apparently registered an account with the iconic U.S. video-sharing site YouTube, uploading clips that praise the isolated regime and defend itself against accusations that it attacked a South Korean warship.

The name in Korean means “on our own as a nation” and was registered July 14.

The uploaded footage contain regurgitations of official cant that honor the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and the usual South Korea bashing. The Aug. 2 upload contained an elaborately produced three-minute clip lashing out at South Korea’s foreign minister.

Another clip, uploaded the same day and also produced in Korean, ridicules Seoul for its failure to stop the U.N. Security Council from placing Pyongyang’s denial in its statement deploring the deadly March sinking of the Cheonan warship.



Most DPRK defectors watched ROK media

Monday, June 14th, 2010

According to Yonhap:

More than half of North Korean teenage defectors viewed South Korean movies and dramas when they were in the communist country, a survey said Monday.

According to the survey conducted last month by Yoon Sun-hee, a professor for Hanyang University, 79 of 140 students, or 56 percent, in Hangyeore Middle and High School said they watched South Korean films and TV programs in North Korea.

North Korea reportedly strictly bans its people from viewing South Korean broadcasts and films.

Hangyeore, located in Anseong, 77 kilometers south of Seoul, is a school for North Korean defectors founded in 2006.

Among the respondents, 57 students said they saw South Korean movies on DVD and 43 claimed to have watched videotaped dramas, while 15 watched broadcasts on TV, the survey showed.

It did not say how the students had obtained the South Korean DVDs and videos, or gained access to the broadcasts.

Forty students said they could see the South Korean programs whenever they wanted and five watched them everyday, when asked how often they had seen the banned films.

The survey also showed that 21 teenagers said they had watched the programs once a month, six said once a year, while seven students experienced the South Korean material only once during their lifetimes in North Korea.

According to the survey, most of them said South Korean films and dramas were “interesting,” although they had to view them secretly in the reclusive country.

“It’s hard to make generalizations but the results are surprising,” said Prof. Yoon. “The result itself indicates that North Korea is more open than we expected.”

“The study shows that North Korean teenagers tend to protest against the regime and also enjoy their lives,” she added.

Some 125 respondents were living near the North Korea-China border, while 15 others were living closer inland, including Pyongyang.

Read the full story below:
More than half of young N.K. defectors watched S. Korean TV programs: poll


Friday Fun: North Korean fashion

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

I watch a lot of North Korean television either by seeking out content or receiving it through friends.  I have decided to post some of it to YouTube (apologies to readers in China) so that I can blog about it.  This first clip is from North Korean television (this month) and the subject is women’s fashion.


Click on image to watch the 5 minute television show.

I am not a fashion critic, so let a thousand flowers bloom–but I should add that clothing lies within the portfolio of the KWP Light Industry Bureau which is controlled by Kim Jong-il’s sister.

UPDATE: This video was featured in an article on Radio Free Asia.  It has a lot more information.

While figuring out how to use YouTube I also stumbled on another discussion of North Korean fashion by Suk-young Kim, associate professor of theater and dance at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Illusive Utopia: Theater, Film, and Everyday Performance in North Korea and translator of Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor. See her discussion on Youtube by clicking on the image below.



No more beer commercials!

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Apparently Kim Jong il is growing intolerant of North Korean television advertising anything other than how great he and his father are.  According to Yonhap:

“Recently, Kim saw the commercials while watching TV. He was enraged, asking where the commercials came from and describing them as the prototype of China’s early reforms,” one source said.

Starting July 2, North Korea’s television played commercials that showed young women in traditional clothes serving frothy mugs of Taedonggang beer billed as “Pride of Pyongyang.”

Other products, including ginseng and quail, soon followed in television advertisements, which had rarely been seen in the country, generating outside speculation that North Korea may be starting to embrace the capitalist mode of life.

But according to Yonhap News Agency’s own analysis, the commercials disappeared as of the end of August. The sources said Cha Sung-su, the North’s top broadcaster, has also been discharged.

One source said Cha may have been unduly victimized in the case because the commercials were a product of Kim’s earlier instruction to create “more interesting and diverse” television programs.

Cha, 69, is one of Kim’s closest aides, having accompanied him on public inspections at least six times since the leader reportedly had a stroke last year and then recovered.

He is the North’s top television man, having served on the communist country’s broadcasting committee for about four decades. He is also known in North Korea for his numerous poems.

I previously blogged about the beer commercials (as did most other K-bloggers) and included a link to a longer 10-minute “infomercial”.

Here is the actual commercial courtesy of the BBC. Here is the commercial on YouTube (without commercial interruption).

Here is the ginseng commercial (Koryo Insam).

Here is the quail restaurant commercial.


N. Korea [not] growing more tolerant of foreign movies

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

UPDATE 2: (hat tip to a couple of appreciated readers) Park Soo-me reports on the proliferation of South Korean films in the DPRK:

“It’s safe to assume that a majority of North Korean residents have watched a South Korean film or a soap opera at least once,” said Kim, who left North Korea in 2004, and established a think-tank in Seoul called the “North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.”

The group, which frequently communicates with their inside contacts in the North, recently broke revealing news that a group of North Korean students were caught watching “Haeundae,” a mega-hit South Korean disaster film locally released just over a month ago, at a computer lab inside a Pyongyang college.

The defector group cited an anonymous source in Pyongyang who told their reporter that the government is tightening a crackdown of digital files, as South Korean films smuggled through China are endangering the North’s dictatorial regime.

A student identified only as “Choi” said he had downloaded the film at his relative’s house in Cheongjin, a city about 50 miles from the Chinese border. He was arrested for promoting the ideology of his enemy state, not for circulating a pirated film.

Since the late 1990s, South Korean dramas and films were illegally traded in the North through local businessmen frequenting the Chinese borders. The phenomenon is not unlike that from the young Soviets in the 1970s, who secretly acquired rock ‘n’ roll records and American videotapes through its black market, despite the country’s ban on the cultural products of the capitalist state.

Last year, an insider from another defectors’ group based in Seoul broke news that DVD compilations of South Korean adult films and TV dramas are becoming popular in the North, as the sales of the average South Korean soap opera has declined in recent years. Such DVDs were found in a North Korean market in Cheongjin, the group said through its newsletter.

The situation in the North has gotten to the point where Oh Yang-yeol, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, published a paper on “Hallyu in North Korea: Now and Future.”

The term hallyu recalls the Korean wave of pop culture that hit Southeast Asia in the early 2000s. Oh’s paper stresses the spread of South Korean fashion, drama and music among the younger generation of North Koreans.

In a separate release by the Korean Institute of National Unification, experts have quoted North Korean defectors who have testified that South Korean melodramas like “Autumn in My Heart” and “Winter Sonata” have become a such hit in the North that a special squad was once organized to crack down on the violators.

But not all dramas smuggled into the North are soft, touchy-feely soap operas. Among the works that have been found and blacklisted by the Northern authorities include films like Park Chan-wook’s “Joint Security Area,” a story which is essentially built around a forbidden friendship between solders from the North and South who are stationed in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries.

On the distribution side, South Korean films and TV dramas are appearing in the North faster and with a broader reach, as evident in the recent case of “Haeundae.”

“In the past, it normally took up to six months for a South Korean film to arrive in the North,” Oh said. “Now, it takes little over a month. In wealthier neighborhoods in Pyongyang we start to see local girls imitating the hairstyle and fashion of South Korean celebrities who starred in the latest TV dramas.”

Irritated by the spread of hallyu — often referred to as the “yellow wind” in the North — authorities have tightened censorship regulations and house inspections to encourage “ideological discipline.” But there is a limit as to what they can do.

Although limited to a privileged few, more computer-savvy Koreans in Pyongyang are finding easier alternatives to enjoy pop culture from the outside world, making the North’s isolation more difficult. Internet access is limited to an Intranet for most people in the North. But USB drives are becoming more common among local college and middle school students, and frequent traffic between North Korea and China is increasing opportunities for cross-border smuggling of pirated films from Hollywood and Seoul.

Read the full story below:
Pop culture making inroads into North Korea
Hollywood Reporter
Park Soo-mee

UPDATE 1: Although the Donga Ilbo previously reported that the DPRK was growing more tolerant of foreign films (below), Channel News Asia reports the DPRK is clamping down:

The student in Pyongyang was caught on September 5 while watching a digital copy of “Haeundae” with his dorm friends, the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said in a newsletter posted on its website.

The student allegedly acquired a file of the film at a relative’s house in the northeastern port city of Chongjin and downloaded it onto his college computer, it said.

The case prompted authorities to launch an extensive probe aimed at preventing the spread of the movie, the group said, quoting a “correspondent” in the North.

The inspection revealed that tens of thousands of North Koreans have secretly seen foreign films, it said.

Defectors say South Korean pop songs and movies are popular in the isolated communist country, despite a steady campaign to weed out what state media has termed “decadent foreign culture and ideals”.

In December 2007, three North Koreans including a schoolteacher were sentenced to death for smuggling illegal adult films from China and South Korea, according to Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group working in the North.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Donga Ilbo:

Recently, the North has televised the shows “International Common Sense,” “Animals in the World,” and “Foreign Culture,” programs which had been abolished long ago. Those programs even show the daily lives of Westerners.

A few days ago, a video clip was aired in which North Korean singers in military uniform played the guitar and sang Italian songs. When broadcasting sports, Pyongyang used to simply air competitions in which North Korean athletes participated, but when airing the IAAF World Championship in Athletics in Berlin last month, the North summarized footage of major events and televised them.

North Korea’s attitude toward foreign movies has also changed. CD-ROMs containing foreign movies have been manufactured by the state-run Hana Electronics, which has sold them across the nation. Most of the CD-ROMs include foreign movies aired by Mansudae TV, which serves Pyongyang only.

A CD-ROM is priced at 1,500 North Korean won (41 U.S. cents) and a DVD goes for 7,500 won (2.07 dollars). CD-ROMs of cooking game programs as well as those on the lives of famous soccer players such as Diego Maradona and Franz Beckenbauer are also on the market.

The North has also embraced world-famous animated films. The Disney productions of “Cinderella,” “Pinocchio,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Robin Hood” are available across the nation. The popular American cartoon “Tom and Jerry” is called “The Magic World of a Mouse” in the North.

The proliferation of foreign movies has also led to an increase in secret movie rental stores. Government-manufactured CD-ROMs can be rented out at 300 won (eight cents) per day and illegal movies can be borrowed at 500 won (14 cents) per day.

Yet most foreign programs broadcast in North Korea are created in China, which, in turn, has encouraged North Koreans to adopt the Chinese way of life. Mansudae TV routinely broadcasts Chinese soap operas like the drama “Unnamed Hero” and “Vertical Blow,” which shows the training of China’s special forces.

Despite the apparent liberalization of North Korean television, Pyongyang has toughened its punishment for those watching South Korean TV programs. In the past, punishment for watching a South Korean program was usually avoided through a bribe but the offense is now considered more severe than a drug-related crime.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea Growing More Tolerant of Foreign Movies
Donga Ilbo


Friday Fun: DPRK movies, KFA, and Air Koryo

Thursday, September 10th, 2009


Hero of the the Commoners


One Photo (Part 1)


One Photo (Part 2)


Shiny Morning (part 1)shinymorning.JPG Shiny Morning (Part 2)shinymorning.JPG

The Miraculous Sound of Love


Cartoon- A Kum Rangakumrang.JPG

Also, Alejandro Cao de Benos has published his own book in Thailand.  According to the KFA web page the book, Korea, the Songun Citadel, was recently published in Bangkok, Thailand. With 148 pages and first edition of 500 volumes.

I am not sure when volume 2 of 500 will be published.

And finally, Skytrax has ranked Air Koryo as the world’s only 1-star airline.