Go to contents

THE DONG-A ILBO Logo

Pyongyang vows to severely punish S. Korean historical drama watching

Pyongyang vows to severely punish S. Korean historical drama watching

Posted May. 28, 2014 06:52,   

Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00

한국어

An informed source on North Korea said on Tuesday that the North Korean authorities handed down last month instruction to government security agencies nationwide to thoroughly crack down on the illegal distribution of South Korean historical drama “Jeong Do-jeon.” The North constantly cracks down on South Korean dramas but it is unusual that Pyongyang has singled out the title of a specific drama while beefing up control and punishment of violators.

The source said, “The North Korean authorities handed down order to crack down on viewing of Jeong Do-jeon to security agencies for protecting the regime, including the state security ministry and the military security command, citing as the reason that the drama is seriously distorting history.” He added, “The real reason for the crackdown would be the fact that the drama deals with revolution against a regime, which is strictly tabooed in the North.”

The drama “Jeong Do-jeon” addresses Jeong as a contributor to the founding of the Joseon Dynasty who dismantled the Goryeo Dynasty and founded the new Lee family-led dynasty together with its first King Lee Seong-gye. As the drama contains the process in which vassals forced out the king based on real history, it poses a highly serious threat to the Kim Jong Un regime, which has sought to justify the third-generation family succession by citing “Baekdu Blood.”

The way Lee Seong-gye is described in the drama is also completely incompatible with history the way North Korean schools teach is reportedly another cause for crackdown as well. Pyongyang has been teaching that Lee Seong-gye is a perpetual betrayer who discarded an opportunity to regain control of land that was once owned by the ancient Goguryeo Kingdom by blindly pursuing his ambition to seize power. Moreover, North Korean history textbooks do not even mention the name Jeong Do-jeon. In contrast, the North teaches Jeong Mong-ju as a faithful vassal of the Goryeo Dynasty.

The informed source on North Korea said, “There was only one case in the mid-2000s wherein Pyongyang singled out the title and handed down order to illegal viewers while warning stern punishment. It was the “Daughter of the Emperor,” a 50-part drama series from China. This drama presented detailed accounts of the emperor as debauchee, and power struggles in the royal palace between empresses and concubines to secure power and love of the emperor. Watching this drama in secrecy at the time, North Koreans reportedly would say, “We (the Kim Jong Il family) will also face such a situation.”

The North also taboos historical dramas dealing with the king or the royal family, because people often compare such family with the reality in the Stalinist country that is in effect a monarchy system. In the past, the North would make movies on heroes such as Im Kkeok-jeong and Hong Gil-dong, who resist exploitation by rulers and social class based on family background, but since the 1990s, Pyongyang has banned such themes amid rising discontent among the public about political and government leaders’ exploitation.

After all, the theme that could be dealt with in a historical drama in North Korea is only about people fighting invaders as in the drama “Gyewolhyang,” which was produced in 2010. However, the airing of this drama also ended prematurely due to avoidance by North Koreans, who developed higher expectations on dramas after secretively watching dramas from foreign countries.”