The spread of enhanced versatile disc (EVD) players in North Korea is making it harder for authorities to crack down on citizens watching South Korean-made videos, and fueling the spread of the "Korean wave" in the communist country, a local scholar said Tuesday.
Kang Dong-won, a professor of international relations at Dong-a University, said that the arrival of cheap, Chinese-made "portable TVs" that started reaching the isolated country in 2005 has made it possible for people to watch various movies and dramas made in the South. He made the comments at an academic seminar hosted by the North Korean Strategy Center.
The latest assertions corroborate the first-hand accounts of many North Korean escapees who said they knew about the Korean wave even before they arrived in the South. The Korean wave, or "Hallyu" in Korean, is a word to describe the growing popularity of South Korean television shows and pop songs across the world.
"The advantage of the EVDs is that they can play various CDs, DVDs and USBs and are relatively cheap to buy," the scholar said.
The information is based on testimonies from 25 North Koreans he interviewed while they were visiting relatives in China from July through September. Kang said in the North, a person can buy such a device for about US$56. He added that pirated South Korean entertainment content cost around just a dollar.
"The people said they got a lot of the shows on USBs, which are very easy to conceal," Kang said.
He also said that some people even admitted to seeing the latest South Korean dramas such as "A Gentleman's Dignity" because of rampant pirating activities in China.
"Many South Korean dramas and shows are copied almost in real time and peddled to North Koreans," the scholar said.
North Korean defector Lee Jung-chol, who lives in Seoul using an alias, said that North Korean authorities are aware of the spread of the Korean wave. Lee, who worked for the government before escaping from the North in 2011, said the North's National Security Agency determined in 2009 that there were some 2,000 South Korean dramas circulating in Pyongyang alone.
"If you have not seen a South Korean drama in the North, you are treated as being out of touch," the escapee said.