Join Policy: Open
Created on: 1 Jul 2009
Join Policy: Open
Created on: 1 Jul 2009
Contemporary music & videos from North Korea (DPRK) "FROM NORTH KOREA, WITH LOVE"
UPDATE: The music featured here is available on KOREA MUSIC playlist.
The People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has a different musical culture than most other countries because it does not have a "free market" music industry where multinational record corporations commercially promote certain artists. Instead a state-run company selects and promotes the artists/groups that are deemed worthy. These are subsequently featured on radio, TV and in concerts and other performances.
1990s hit "내이름 묻지 마세요" (Do not ask my name...)
A patriotic song by the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble
The music that is supported tends to have an influence of patriotic, idealistic, ideological content. There are also themes of love, friendship, dedication to the leadership and the beauty of nature. The most famous North Korean group is no doubt the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble (보천보전자악단).
1990s hit "북한" (Whistle - "Fiparam")
Pochonbo Electronic has a unique style; a combination of 80s style synth-pop, soprano singing and often an upbeat march tempo. They are a truly unique band and listening to their music can be relaxing, uplifting, fun and interesting.
"준마처녀" (The Heroic Workers' Factory) with funny SUBTITLES IN ENGLISH!
Other famous groups are for example Wangjaesan Light Music Band (왕재산 경음악단) and the Mansuadae Art Troupe (김일성장군의 노래). As you might be able to tell, there is a noticeable influence from: China, Russia (USSR) and Central European pop of the 80s, But there is also a unique North Korean twist!
The music videos above portray life in the capital, Pyongang, in the early 1990s. Life in the countryside is less modern!
"번영하여라 로동당시대" ("Let us prosper in the age of the Worker's Party")
(Ambitions and aspirations for the future, slightly airbrushed...)
As you probably are aware, North Korea has suffered tremendous set-backs as a result of the disappearance of communist trading partners in the former Eastern bloc, flooding and other natural disasters. They country is prevented from importing badly needed technlogy by blockades and other restrictions imposed by the US and Japan.
North Korea is one of the few countries that is staying true to Communist ideals of full employment and a planned economy. The population are extremely loyal towards the deceased leader Kim Il-Song (Kim Ir-sen) who is viewed as a liberator and revolutionary fighter. They also support his son, the present leader. Kim Jong-Il about whom many false rumours have been spread in the West.
"사회주의 지키세" (Let us Defend Socialism) (A hit from the early 1990s,
when socialism was crumbling around the world)
Westerners and others who make fun of North Korea's "personality cult" surrounding the leaders should bear in mind that this is part of normal East Asian culture that people feel comfortable with. In this part of the world, leaders are often "deified!"
The exact same phenomenon has taken place in surrounding areas well into the 20th century: Chinese emperor, Japanese emperor, Thai king, Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh etc. In Russia; the Tsar, Lenin, Stalin et.c..
동무들아 군대로 가자 Come, let us join the Military "
Traditions of strong leaders go back thousands of years and are not necessarily "evil" because they are not en vogue in the Western world at the moment. "If my leader is great and good, then things are well in the world." The practice is no more sinister than that, and really no more absurd than many Western practices would be to the North Koreans.
(A comparison: Europeans of many nationalities might ask themselves why the head of their country is a king or queen whose picture is everywhere; who is never seriously critisized in media; who lives an oppulent lifestyle in return for very little work; who is head of the national protestant church (God's representative!) and has who has personally done absolutely nothing to deserve this role? The reason this is allowed to go on is that most citizens prefer things this way, out of tradition! Is this sinister? No, not particularly - it is the internal matter of the country concerned to decide who it wants to be the head of state, and how much power and respect the leader deserves.
"당신이없으면, 조국도 없다" (No Motherland Without You)
North Korea is not telling the West how to treat its' leaders. Why should the West meddle in Korean traditions?
Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il have faults like any other person, but their desire to build a prosperous, strong socialist state and improve peoples' lives is unquestionable. Most of the fanciful rumours flourishing around Kim Jong-Il today are fabrications, propaganda or gross exaggerations instigated and spread from South Korea and happily repeated in Western press as "facts".
기다렸습니다 (Kidaryo sumnida) "Waiting for him"
North Koreans are bitter towards the United States for completely flattening the country and killing large numbers of civilians during the Korean War. This took place during the height of America's anti-communist paranoia, when a good communist was a dead communist...
The North Koreans were just as determined as later the Vietnamese to stick to their preferred ideology, and the war ended in stalemate.
As a result of the staggering figures of civilian deaths in the Korean war, a very large part of the population grew up in orphanages, raised by the state. The orphans were encouraged to consider Kim Il-Sung their father.
The atrocities of this war are largely forgotten outside of the Korean peninsula. It is very unclear how a civil war on the Korean peninsula was any of the US' business in the first place!
Although the anti-American rhetoric in North Korea is clearly excessive, the genuine resentment among the people is understandable. People alive today watched or were subjected to terrible atrocities committed by US troops in the name of crushing the "Communist enemy" whose life had little value in their eyes.
A recent North Korean film "A Schoolgirls' Diary" (Han nyeohaksaengeui ilgi) which was also released in France.
North Korea was occupied by Japan for half a century up until the end of the second world war. The terrible experience that North Korea has had with foreign powers has made it determined to follow its own path and be as independent as possible.
The state philosophy in North Korea is called "Juche" and emphasises self-reliance. Korea was a distinctly independent nation for a thousand years of peaceful co-existance with its' neighbour, China. During the 19th century it repeatedly turned away Japanese and Western requests for trading agreements and asked time and again to be left alone since it was not interested in exchanges with Europe or the United States. It's wishes were not respected.
The progress in building of the country according to socialist and Juche principles was largely successful up until the early 1990s when trade and bartering with other communist nations ceased. This proved disastrous for the Korean economy. There was a dependence on foreign powers after all...
Siong and video about education
Today North Korea is a battered nation, hated by the United States for sticking with communism, for occupying a strategically important part of the map (next to China and Russia), and for daring to defy US position on the nuclear proliferation.
Japan imposed a trade embargo on North Korea following the revelations that North Korean agents had wrongfully kidnapped 16 regular Japanese citizens in the 1970s, to have them train Koreans in Japanese customs. (Obviously an outrage, but this should be compared with the abduction of several 100,000s of Koreans by Japan during the colonial period only a few decades earlier. Women were used as sex-slaves and cooks in the Japanese army, and men as forced labour.)
The embargo has made it harder and much more expensive for North Korea to obtain desperately needed computer technology which was previously imported from Japan to North Korea on the Niigata - Wonsan ferry.
"Mass Game" an annual show with thousands of performers. Clip from Arte TV
North Korea has consistently had a low level of respect for the human rights of political prisoners. But do not forget that this is nothing unusual in the world today, including in many countries that are currently enjoying the fullsupport of the Western world!
However, the truth remains that far too many North Koreans are suffering tremendously in prison camps for having worked against the regime or expressed undesireable opinions. This harsh treatment of dissidents is North Korea's biggest fault. The sympathy and goodwill towards North Korea in Europe, Russia, China would greatly improve if the currently appalling treatment of political prisoners would cease.
Performance on a Kayagum, a traditional Korean instrument,
at a North Korean restaurant in China.
North Korea has absolutely no territorial claims or interests outside the Korean peninsula. The current "North Korea witch-hunt" by the Western world and its media is unwarranted and out of proportion. It is a cover for other agendas. Do not fall for the propaganda.
North Korea wants nuclear weapons only as a deterrent for an attack, and because nuclear power is by far the cheapest and most efficient way of solving North Koreas critical energy shortage which has a cost in civilian lives.
In negotiations during the 1990s the US promised North Korea help with their oil supply and other energy-related problems, in return for North Korean adherence to its wishes regarding development of nuclear weapons. North Korea complied in full, according to the UN. However the US reneged on the agreement after only a couple of years leaving North Korea back where it started, but years behind its original schedule for building a nuclear power plant. It was a huge financial blow, and completely destroyed any North Korean faith in agreements with the United States.
Those concerned with the "nuclear threat" from North Korea: Do not forget that the US keeps plenty of nuclear warheads at its bases in South Korea, something which sends a chill down the spine of all North Koreans.. (Guess why the nukes are there? Hint: China, North Korea, Vladivostok...)
내 나라 제일로 좋아 My Country Is the Best
The US has already used nukes twice, against civilians in Japan, something which many Koreans who lived in Japan at the time, remember with horror... With all the facts in mind, is it not at least somewhat understandable that North Korea feels it must pursue its' own nuclear deterrent despite the monetary and political cost?
The DPRK territory currently has no known oil reserves that might serve as motivation for an invasion. However its' strategically important position on the map should not be under-estimated. It borders China (mainly) and Russia.
The distance between Vladivostok, home of the Russian Pacific fleet, and Rajin in North Korea is around 100 km (60 miles). Guess where the US would set up its' first permanent base after a hypothetical conquest of North Korea? Another big along the Chinese border would be a huge triumph too...
A song about Re-unification. This song is popular in both South and North Korea.
Please use your head and form your own opinions about this country. Do not swallow what commercial Western media stuffs you with. There is just as much propaganda in the West as in any dictatorship! But Western proganda is sleaker, glossier and much more all-encompassing. It sneaks up on you in a completely different way than North Korea's in-your-face version!
North Korea is neither a workers paradise (although that is the stated goal!), nor is it on any "axis of evil!"
It's a unique country with a unique culture and outlook on the world. It is worth getting to know. The citizens are proud, intelligent and have endured terrible trials. New economic initiatives are in place and the hope for the future is better than for decades.
"반갑습니다" (Bangeap Sumnida) Happy to see you!
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- Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble - 보천보전자악단
- 왕재산 경음악단 (Wangjaesan Light Music Band)
- Mansudae Art Troupe
- Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble
- Wangjaesan Light Music Band
- North Korea
- Red Army Choir
- The Red Army Choir
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