Despite its isolationist policy that extends to the realm of entertainment, North Korea is reportedly no stranger to South Korea’s K-pop, with some North Koreans even identifying as fans.
Secret fans: The latest revelation comes from K-pop soloist Ailee, who recalled her time in Pyongyang in a recent interview with Psick Shows. Known for hits such as “I Will Show You,” “Breaking Down” and “U & I,” the Denver-born artist visited North Korea in 2018 with other K-pop stars to perform at the third annual Inter-Korean Summit.
Ailee said North Korean audiences stayed quiet during performances but clapped vigorously in the end. And to her surprise, some even approached her to confide that they were fans.
“I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, or if I’m allowed to, but they know all our music,” she said. “I don’t think they’re supposed to show that they know [our music], but they would come to the bathroom secretly and be like, ‘I’m such a fan…”
Legal status: K-pop, as well as other forms of South Korean entertainment, are officially banned in North Korea. In 2021, a report from Seoul-based human rights organization Transitional Justice Working Group revealed that Kim Jong-un’s regime had publicly executed at least seven people for watching or distributing K-pop videos.
The big picture: Ailee’s revelation only adds to reports of North Koreans gambling with their lives to get a glimpse of the outside world. How exactly they manage to access K-pop content is unclear, but it has been reported that the “real internet” is only available to elite North Koreans.kpo
In August, Seoul for the first time urged Pyongyang to put an end to its K-pop ban. “We strongly urge North Korean authorities to abolish the anti-reactionary thought law that denies its citizens access to outside information,” said Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho, as per The Korea Times.