North Korea has been trying to tighten its grip on cultural control over its population for some time now. In its bid to stop the country from being influenced by the capitalist South, the government has taken some questionably harsh steps in recent times. After weeding out South Korean drama and music, the government’s newest target is language.
In North Korea, consuming any South Korean product, be it technological, cosmetic, intellectual, or cultural, has been strictly prohibited for decades. But even amidst the iron grip of control, North Korean people often managed to pirate songs, movies, and dramas from South Korea and consumed them in secret.
However, according to reports, since 2021, the Kim Jong Un government has grown insecure about the rising dissent among young North Koreans. Some believe that the infiltration of content from the outside world has “corrupted” young minds. So, to curb their voices, the regime started implementing draconian punishment for people who dared be influenced by the global culture. Only recently the world was shaken by the news of the regime publicly executing two teenagers for watching and distributing South Korean dramas.
Taking it a step further, now North Korea’s rubberstamp Supreme People’s Assembly has enacted a new law to protect the Pyeongyang dialect, the standard dialect of North Korea, to stunt the spread of the South Korean dialect among the general public. According to the North Korean Central News Agency, the new law aims to “root out anti-normative elements… and protect and actively preserve the Pyongyang dialect.”
A North Korean defector explained that, like him, many people in the North spend a lot of time absorbed in K-Dramas, and so they tend to pick up on the Southern dialects subconsciously. Now, it would be incriminating to speak in any way that is obviously influenced by South Korean culture.
Interestingly, in 2021, reports stated that the North Korean regime was already cracking down on young people dressing in the Southern style or talking their way, which included younger wives calling their older husbands “Oppa.” If the teenagers’ death is any indication, this new law will only push the limits of the regime’s brutality against the public.