Seems like everyone on the internet is watching the crazy success of Netflix Squid game, and that includes a North Korean propaganda site, which praises the series for “exposing the reality of South Korean society, where weak meat and corruption are on the rise and scoundrels are rife.”
The comment comes from Arirang Meari (Going through Initiated), and that is exactly what one expects from a spokesperson for a totalitarian state. The play denounces the inequalities caused by South Korean capitalism and a society where “people are treated like chess pieces”.
This is not the first time that North Korean propaganda sites have done something like this. According to Reuters, a North Korean daily also praised Bong Joon-Ho Parasite for doing the same when he won the Oscar for best film in 2020. Who exactly is all this demagoguery for?
As you can imagine, North Korea doesn’t have Netflix. (However, he did create a Netflix-like application called My Companion 4.0 in 2017.) And although North Koreans have access to smartphones, they are limited to something called kwangmyong, or a state-controlled intranet that has no access to the outside world. Access to the Internet as we know it in the United States is limited to people with special permission. Basically, the average North Korean citizen probably doesn’t have access to Squid game. So either propaganda is aimed at citizens, or it’s sting South Korea and the outside world … who does not give a boo what North Korea thinks of capitalism.
It’s possible that Squid game could cross the 48th parallel. Activists are known for send balloons with flyers or USB sticks containing K-dramas as a way to expose the bullshit from North Korea. It is a dangerous hobby, however. Those who watch South Korean dramas risk of being imprisoned, sent to labor camps or executed. In 2014, at least 50 people were reportedly executed publicly for doing just that, including 10 officials from Leader Kim Jong-Un’s own party. Kim Jong-un also recently called K-pop a “vicious cancer,« a movement that was spurred on by the fact that South Korean pop culture, including Squid game is part – becomes increasingly popular with young North Koreans.
Even if a person was brave enough to watch contraband content, it is still a bad look for the regime. One of Squid gameFan favorite characters, Kang Sae-byeok, is a North Korean defector whose main reason for participating in the dystopian tournament is to earn money to bring her family to South Korea. Sae-byeok too hides her north korean accent when he talks to South Korean characters, and is ridiculed as a “commie” or “spy” when other characters notice him. It is in addition to the fact the whole series negatively portrays arbitrary violence and rule breaking executions.
The irony of it all is really the top level self-ownership. Then again, maybe no one writing the propaganda has watched the show itself.