North Korea to launch new TV soap operas

Actor Gang Nam-hoon Image copyright DPRK Today
Image caption North Korean TV dramas have become increasingly well-produced, but stick to tried-and-tested themes

North Korea's state-run television is set to launch two slick soap operas revisiting familiar themes of patriotism and loyalty in time of war, it's reported.

According to North Korean news website DPRK Today, one will be about a farmer's struggle against Japanese soldiers who are trying to "steal ginseng from the people"; while the other will be about a secret agent fighting "evil enemies" attempting to destroy the country.

The struggle against the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, which ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Japanese Empire in World War II, is fertile ground for North Korean television drama, with Japanese characters commonly portrayed as a greedy and brutal occupying force.

DPRK Today says that North Korean production companies are looking to improve the quality of television drama so that they can appeal to international, as well as domestic audiences.

State news agency KCNA highlighted the success of glossy 2014 TV series Bulletproof Wall, which won an award at a film festival in Moscow in 2016. The agency said it was "a truthful artistic depiction of the tradition of devotedly defending the leader established by the anti-Japanese revolutionary forerunners and the noble mental spirit of patriots".

However, international sales of North Korean television content are currently all but impossible given sanctions by the United Nations.

Image copyright Korea Central Television
Image caption North Korean TV often features military music, the Kim family, or a combination of the two

Narrow point of reference

North Korea's Central TV regularly airs films depicting personal sacrifices made in the patriotic struggle against both Japanese and American foes, and it's this narrow point of reference which limits drama and film making in the country.

Writing for the Institution for Peace Affairs in 2016, North Korean defector Jung Myung-ho said that most dramas are designed to justify the North Korean government's ideologies and to promote patriotism and loyalty as key attributes for the people.

Mr Jung says, based on his time living in North Korea, that younger people who have not experienced war are less interested in these dramas, even if they are the only thing to watch "when the electricity is working".

Central Television is a daily diet of programming aimed at glorifying the Kim family regime and a military-first society.

Even children's programmes carry messages of party loyalty and patriotism; while adult viewers are never more than a few minutes away from martial music or images of the country's leadership and military might.

Image copyright Korea Central Television
Image caption Children's TV this week included a cartoon about an anthropomorphic gas boiler learning the dangers of power without responsibility

Reporting by Tae-jun Kang, Alistair Coleman

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