Friday, 23 September 2011

Korean Propaganda: North and South

Adeel, from "And With Your Help I'll Get That Chicken" has an interesting post comparing North and South Korean propaganda posters.

So go read it.

The comparison between the heavy-handed way the government talks to its people in the north, and in the south, serves to remind us both that South and North Korea aren't really that far removed, timewise, from being the same country (sixty or seventy years isn't a whole lot in geopolitical terms), and the real point of divergence might have only been as recent as 1987 or 1993, with South Korea's first democratic election, or South Korea's first election of a civilian president.

Though it's definitely different now... listen how similar the song is in this (admittedly old) North Korean tourism ad, to the music your taxi driver listens to, or to the music tracks playing in the background at a noraebang (karaoke room).


Some south Korea Trot music.


Yes, South Korean tourism advertising is better than that...


But the fact South Korea's tourism promotions have all been upstaged by some random tourist who happens to be a good video editor? Not good news.

Seriously, they should just hire this guy.

In general, I've observed that sentiment towards North Korea is mostly generational -- as South and North Korea have become less similar over time, those with less memory of times when North and South were similar feel less reason to hold onto the connections that remain. People under thirty seem to spend more time talking about the staggering economic burden North Korea would be as a province of South Korea, absorbed and needing support, while people over forty have bought into the "one people" thing comparatively more.

One of my students once dropped the interesting thesis that Western technology companies dread Korean unification, because North Korea's cheap labor combined with South Korea's technology know-how would enable South Korea's technology companies to dominate the world markets by undercutting the prices through reduced manufacturing costs.

Meanwhile, a left-leaning, Nork-friendly student I once had argued that if South and North Korea reunited, South Korea would become a nuclear capable nation, which it isn't right now, thanks to North Korea's nuke program, and that would raise Korea's status in the world. Although I suspect this might have been a prepared argument used to justify being North-friendly, as I've since heard that exact same argument, to the letter (or at least to the talking point) from a few other north-friendly people who were smart enough to know their "one blood, one people" stuff had run out of gas with anybody under forty, and perhaps they needed a different line.

9 comments:

gwern said...

>
One of my students once dropped the interesting thesis that Western technology companies dread Korean unification, because North Korea's cheap labor combined with South Korea's technology know-how would enable South Korea's technology companies to dominate the world markets by undercutting the prices through reduced manufacturing costs.

Sheer paranoia (and, incidentally, reminds me of North Korean material I've read).

Western tech companies don't care the least about unification because it's not on their radar, not something they can do anything about; and if they cared enough to look into it, they'd conclude that unification would politically & economically disrupt South Korea for years in the best-case scenarios, and require decades - inasmuch as conditions for the German unification were far more favorable but East Germany is *still* a sullen drag on West.

Changmi said...

I agree that the clips of North Korean propaganda and South Korean trot music might seem startlingly similar to Westerners like you and me. After all, the gap between our own cultures and traditional Korean culture is so much greater in many ways.

But I suspect most South Koreans would be appalled by even the small differences. In my experience most South Koreans expect North Koreans to be simply poorer, hungrier versions of themselves; "If they can just be fattened up a bit, they'll be just like us." They discount the differences in ideology and attitude until they come face-to-face with them, and that's why defectors have such a hard time fitting in down South.

Adeel said...

Thanks for the plug, Rob.

People focus on the economic dimension, but I don't know why. The social dimension, as you've brought up, would probably be just as good. What would happen to the social, cultural and political landscape when you add 20 million North Koreans?

I think North Koreans in a unified Korea would be very cynical and distrusting of anyone. They would also find South Koreans to be petty, stuck-up and materialistic.

Viewing unification through economics assumes North Koreans are passive objects who can be handled only through money, but they're likely to have as much of an effect on South Korea (finances notwithstanding) as much as South Korea will affect them.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

gwern: given that SK currently seems to have no strategy at all for reunification, you're probably right that chaos, not ascendancy, would follow.

changmi: not exactly the same, but similar enough to remember that during the 1950s and 1960s, South and North were in a surprisingly similar spot -- it wasn't until the 1980s that South Korea started to really distance itself from North Korea economically.

adeel:
"What would happen to the social, cultural and political landscape when you add 20 million North Koreans?"
one thing that would happen: 20 million north korean voters behind one candidate (plus, probably, Jeollado and Jejudo, and a bunch of the kinds of young people who got carried away by Roh Moo-hyun's demagoguery) would be enough to put that person in the blue house.

Michael Hurt, over at Scribblings of the Metropolitician, has a lot of interesting things to say about North Korea a while ago... hold on...

here
http://metropolitician.blogs.com/scribblings_of_the_metrop/2006/02/thoughts_on_the.html
and here
http://metropolitician.blogs.com/scribblings_of_the_metrop/2007/06/marry_a_north_k.html
for starters

wetcasements said...

What, no Flight of the Conchords?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shP1IRGigbo

cardigan stewz said...

South Korean men are required to serve in the military for two years at a salary of W50,000 per month, so why not have all South Korean women serve as factory workers for two years at W50,000 per month?

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

try to stay on topic, there, c.s.

WonTaek Chung said...

lol cs is trolling... I think...

whether there would be a united Korea or not will probably be decided by the North Koreans. If they decide the cause a revolution and win, then asks South Korean gov't to help, the South Korean gov't probably would collaborate and think of a unification plan.

Personally, I think we need to unify. lol, I don't think Korea needs nukes. It would benefit our country overall in terms of economy.we can spend less on military, more on well being. And North Koreans can suffer less.

Charles said...

Here's a couple of examples of South Korea's "Charm Campaign" for unification I have noticed between my first job in Korea (mid 90s) and second (mid-00s): 1 the map used for the weather report has changed from a map of ONLY the south to (now) north and south with a mention of the weather in Pyongyang. I think its SBS(?) which uses a map that includes the ethnic Korean area of Manchuria too. 2 Written in English as "north Korea" (yes, small "n") signifies one Korea, not a north and south.