Propaganda is a very versatile tool when it comes to politics, and it has been used in many different ways through the ages. Theoretical texts have been published, posters printed, films made and broadcast. In recent years, propaganda comes in many more diversified forms with the rise of the Internet and social media, wherein the spread of texts, posters, comics, films and the like are even more widespread and are guaranteed to reach people all over the globe.
This week, South Korea was seeking a more direct line of propaganda through which to protest its Northern neighbor and its extremist regime.
That’d be through their popular music.
WHAT IS K-POP?
Korean pop music became a national phenomenon during the 1990s, when dozens of groups started springing up with new takes on the music of the time, mixing in hip-hop with Western popular music and a hint of soulful R&B. It has since then developed an entirely new sub-genre of music and gained quite a name for itself in world music with its distinctive look, feel and method of training.
Many of South Korea’s pop acts have been at the very top of music charts both in their homeland, in Japan and throughout all of Asia, even going as far as topping the Billboard World Album Chart, such as boy group EXO and girl group 2NE1.
WHAT DID SOUTH KOREA PLAY FOR NORTH KOREA?
The South Korean border was reported to have been playing their pop music through loudspeakers directed at the North this week, alongside very vocal protest against the Northern Leader’s rule and his extremist ideals. This is not a new method of protest, since the DMZ was reported to have played girl group 4minute’s song “Hit Your Heart” after the North had fired a torpedo in 2010. This time around, songs by national sensation Girls Generation were played, as well as from hip-hop group Big Bang and icon IU.
WHY PROVOKE THE NORTH?
The reasons why the South is doing this are layered. Firstly, the speakers on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone are high-tech, and can be heard very clearly by the Northern side, as if wanting to say that their technology is far more advanced and that the South has managed to move forward while the North has remained at a standstill. Humor seems to also be part of the equation, where lyrics of the songs played are meant to reflect the strength and perseverance that the South will keep against the North through any threat.
THE NORTH’S RESPONSE
The North reacted to this altercation with a threat to turn Seoul into a “sea of flames”, and the UN eventually had to intervene to ameliorate the already fragile state of the two countries’ relationships. After a forty-hour-long talk, both sides finally compromised and the tensions settled.