For over a decade, North Korea’s exposure to k-pop has been either: a a highly secretive act of defiance on the part of its bop-deprived citizens, or a form of peppy, passive-aggressive “psychological warfare” from the South. Back then, according to the NY Times, whenever South Korean soldiers blasted the latest hits across the DMZ, NK would threaten to point their missiles at the offending speakers and instigate “all-out war” if the k-pop assault didn’t stop.
But not anymore! Now even the Supreme Leader himself is jamming out to Red Velvet. (And who can blame him?)
As one of South Korea’s most popular girl groups, Red Velvet was chosen along with solo artists Seohyun (of Girls Generation), Cho Yong Pil, Lee Sun Hee, YB, and Baek Ji Young as the first k-pop acts in the last 16 years to grace a stage north of the border.
While Red Velvet’s Joy couldn’t participate due to scheduling conflicts, the other four members took the stage to perform recent hits “Red Flavor” and “Bad Boy” for an audience that included Kim Jong-un and his wife, South Korean president Moon Jae-in, and 1,500 North Korean citizens. Prior to this, Kim Jong-un was a total k-pop virgin.
Apparently, the North Korean government didn’t even try to reject or edit any of the group’s songs, potentially risqué lyrics or dance moves. Progress, y’all. They did, however, nix SK’s original suggestion to bring Psy along. According to the South Korean minister of culture, Kim “showed much interest during the show and asked questions about the songs and lyrics.” After the performance, he met with the members in person.
Per Billboard, Red Velvet’s maknae (youngest) Yeri said she was “very” nervous but “really, really” honored to shake Kim’s hand.
It’s all very surreal.
The show was meant to be yet another stepping stone towards peace and re-union between North and South. During the Olympics, NK sent their own artists down to perform in Pyeonchang; this was SK returning the favor.
It wasn’t that long ago at all that people were getting sent to prison camps for selling or even watching k-pop on the sly–but now, the dictator might just become a stan.
Wonder who his bias is.