North Koreans reportedly enjoy US films

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


7 Responses to “North Koreans reportedly enjoy US films”

  1. Simon says:

    Tom & Jerry is still shown on NK TV, on Saturdays. Also internatioal football matches (long after they’ve happened, I watched the semi-final of the 2009 Champions league a week after the final had happened) A foreign movie is on TV every Saturday night too; sometimes this movie is an old one everyone has seen, sometimes something fairly modern such as a Russian movie about conflict in the Caucasus or Jet Li’s Hero, both of which I’ve seen there this year.

  2. yej1211 says:

    “Your name is James? Like James Bond?”
    -Person I met in North Korea

    “We love Jack (from Titanic)!”
    -Some girls I met in North Korea

  3. Gag Halfrunt says:

    Are foreign language films dubbed or subtitled? Do they use the Soviet style of dubbing where voices are placed on top of the original soundtrack? (I’ve heard this done in a clip from a North Korean film where evil American imperialist characters were speaking.)

  4. Vince Lockyer says:

    Fascinating. Would the penalty for watching South Korean or American DVDs or recordings be as severe as watching live TV?

    The authorities surely cannot be OK with people watching films like ‘Casino Royale’ because it shows how technologically advanced the outside world is?

    • Gag Halfrunt says:

      From what I’ve read here and on other NK-related blogs, they were most concerned about hiding the economic and technological superiority of South Korea in particular, because the propaganda line was that it was a colonial hellhole where people lived in misery under the heel of the “American imperialists”, their “south Korean” (note the small C) lackeys and the “puppet army”. I’ve also read that the line has changed over the past few years to acknowledge the South’s prosperity but portray it as a morally degenerate society, corrupted by foreign influences, which has lost its traditional Korean values and racial purity.

      I once saw online an episode from the North Korean film series Nameless Heroes, made in the late 1970s, where a scene set in Paris in 1950 was introduced by shots of the skyscrapers in La Défense and the Péripherique (beltway) full of modern cars. It then cut to two characters in a seventies Japanese car with very ropey back projection. Clearly the censors were not too bothered that France in the fiftiess was shown as a land of skyscrapers and highways.

    • Gag Halfrunt says:

      P.S. That should of course be “small S”.