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Young N. Koreans find ways to avoid crackdowns on S. Korean dramas, movies

Despite heavy crackdowns by North Korean authorities on the viewing of South Korean media, young people are finding various ways to continue watching it under the noses of the government.

“Enforcers from the Sinuiju Task Force against Anti-Socialist and Non-Socialist Behavior have been closely watching for signs of illegal video viewing, conducting two or three searches of residents’ homes every day. But young people are using notetels to avoid detection when watching illegal media,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Notetel, short for “notebook television,” is a Chinese-made portable media player that is widely used in North Korea. One feature of notetels is that they can play a wide range of media files stored on compact discs (CDs), SD cards and USB flash drives.

This has inspired young people to keep a CD of legal movies or dramas in the drive while watching illegal media on an SD card or USB flash drive. They store illegal media on SD cards or USB flash drives because they are smaller and easier to remove and conceal than a CD.

When someone knocks on the door, the teens quickly remove the SD card or USB flash drive and immediately play the legal media on the CD in the drive so it looks like they were watching it all along, the source explained.

This was the method used by a young man in Sinuiju to fool enforcers who paid him an unexpected visit on March 30 while he was watching a South Korean movie.

According to the source, the young man removed the USB flash drive from his notebook as soon as he heard a knock at his door. After hiding the flash drive, he opened the door.

Enforcement officers checked the CD in his notebook for illegal media and then opened all the drawers in the house to look for storage devices that might contain illegal videos. When nothing objectionable was found, they left the house.

“When you ask who is at the door, the enforcers do not identify themselves, they just ask people to open up. So now people are in the habit of hiding anything that could get them in trouble if there’s a knock at the door. And that’s exactly what this young man was doing,” the source said.

“The enforcers will search you if they find something suspicious, but otherwise they’ll just move on to the next house. People here [in North Korea] have been dealing with searches since they were born, so they’re smart enough to trick the enforcers. That’s how they get away with watching South Korean dramas and other illegal media,” the source said.

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un defined inter-Korean relations at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea late last year as relations between hostile and belligerent states, watching South Korean media is now being treated as a more serious crime than in the past. Reports from inside the country, however, suggest that government crackdowns have not made young North Koreans any less curious or interested in South Korean culture.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

April 12, 2024 at 12:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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