Mind your language! North Korean women forced to call lovers male comrades

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Pyongyang has cracked down on outside cultural influences as economic conditions in the country have deteriorated. An ongoing campaign has urged North Koreans to stay clear of all things South Korean – including fashion, music and hairstyles. Now, South Korean slang has seemingly been added to the list of things forbidden, with North Korean youngsters told to “mind their language”.

An editorial published in the newspaper Rodong Sinmun urged youngsters to stay true to their country’s “superior” language, as it railed against the dangers posed by “bourgeois” ideology and culture.

Last month Ha Tae-keung, a South Korean politician, attended an intelligence briefing provided by the country’s spy agency.

Mr Ha told CNN that according to intelligence reports, North Korean women were no longer allowed to use the term “oppa” when referring to their lovers – a word that is commonly used by women in the south.

Instead, North Korean women must now call their romantic partners “male comrades”.

The Roding Sinmun editorial insisted that clothing, hairstyles and language were “a reflection of the state of thought and spirit.”

It added that losing the culture war would “bring many times more serious consequences than on the battlefield.”

The regime has started to introduce harsher penalties for anyone caught consuming South Korean culture.

A new law introduced in December allows courts to impose sentences of up to 15 years in labour camps for those caught accessing South Korean entertainment, according to the New York Times.

Those charged with distributing the entertainment can even face the death penalty.


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Jean Lee, senior fellow at the US-based Wilson Center, said Kim Jong-un’s preoccupation with banning outside cultural influences was an attempt to preserve his legitimacy and power.

She told CNN: “It absolutely does pose a threat if young North Koreans are watching South Korean dramas and seeing what life is like for Koreans outside their country, because they’re seeing images of Seoul, of how well they’re living, how freely they’re living.”

North Korea is currently in the grip of another economic crisis, that has led to food shortages and the re-emergence of famine.

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