Friday, December 20, 2013

Things I Learned Watching North Korean Television

One of their TV segments begins.

TUNE IN HERE (Same Link as on Right Hand Side of Blog)
Note: This station is almost never active except from roughly 10PM to 1AM EST.

I have been sporadically tuning in to the pirated North Korean TV feed for about a year now- it's actually quite interesting to watch- almost more so than TV from here in the USA, where it's nonstop ads and most broadcasts revolve around numbing the viewers' mind.

In between obviously propagandist segments (nationalistic anthems and marches and footage of DPRK soldiers smiling and waving at Kim) are some truly eye-opening contents that make me wish the internet was in wide use when the USSR existed (just imagine all the interesting broadcasts we'd have recorded, that have now been lost to time.)

However I found that, even though I couldn't understand a word the North Koreans were saying, I was still learning. Here are some of my findings.

 North Korean Theater.
1. North Koreans are Obsessed with (and extremely good at) making theater performances.

Perhaps because they don't seem to have access to movie theaters, and probably also out of a sense of tradition, many segments presented on their station seem to revolve around live performances of music and plays- even though I can't understand what they say, I can understand the plot, and I can read the emotions evoked by the actors- which is a sign that whatever training they have, they are very good at putting on a performance, usually I get no emotion from any actors.

2. North Korean music is an eclectic mix of traditional Asian musical styles and every other possible genre imaginable.
Ever hear a traditional asian song infused with ska-like trumpet backgrounds? Have you heard a military march that contains a synthesizer solo? Have you ever heard a song in which a harp, accordion, and mandolin play together? Is a trombone usually present in a K-pop song?

In North Korea, this seems to be the case- these songs are admittedly catchy, and usually played to visuals of either nature scenes or soldiers or, in one very strange case, to visuals of female soldiers romping in a meadow full of flowers.

3. Soldiers are almost Omnipresent in DPRK Broadcasts.

The presence of soldiers (or at least people in uniform) is almost nonstop in DPRK television- most of the musical artists seem to wear uniforms, and at least 25% of all the broadcast content seems to be Kim surveying military posts, military marches, or similar material.

4. Almost every play or film has a cautionary message.

From today's theater performance (which seems to have been about a wayward young schoolgirl) to its early-broadcast film (which was about a wayward young farmers' boy who wanted to become educated) almost every fiction piece that isn't music has a deep cautionary message, usually directed at the youth, and usually espousing the virtues of tradition, working together, respect for family, and the struggles of the lower classes. In the former case, the wayward girl seems to have reconciled with her family, while in the latter case, the wayward farm boy seems to have given up his dreams of an urban education in favor of helping work the family farm.

5. (And this was surprising) Their films often seem to applaud rough-housing, cracking jokes, and occasionally, disobeying orders (at least among males.)

Almost every film that includes a military aspect seems to depict young male soldiers spending the majority of their time happy and joking around, often teasing one another- in one case one or more of the soldiers seem to have made their commander extremely unhappy through their actions, but as a result seem to have won a battle, avenging the fallen, and bringing them honor (or something similar to this.) It's quite possible the commander had given an order contradictory to some aspect of the political fabric of North Korean society, thus causing the situation.

6. North Korea seems to have an absolutely stunning countryside.

While most of the people in the DPRK seem to live in varying levels of impoverished misery, the natural landscape of the country looks like a combination of the better physical features of any other substantially environmentally friendly nation- perhaps because the DPRK seems to lack automobiles and heavy industry it seems pollution, in some areas, is virtually nonexistent.

7. There seems to be a disconnect between younger and older North Koreans.

Most people you see anywhere on any of these broadcasts, who are over 40-ish, have extremely traditional hair styles, clothing, and mannerisms- but when you see younger individuals, some of them are wearing clothing which appears more westernized, and their mannerisms are far different; I am not sure if this is cultural (IE the state allows some level of individuality at a younger age) or if it might be the result of a very slow infusion of individualism into the DPRK, which older individuals themselves choose to resist. If either is true, it seems to be similar to the differences in older or younger Chinese individuals (AKA those alive during, or only after, the gang of four was displaced.)

The lady on the left appears to be a historian or employed similarly, explaining the significance of, and/or history behind, certain photographs and documents.

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