[Caleb McFadden is a history student at Middle Tennessee State University. He wrote the following article about North Korea’s YouTube channel for EA World View, a blog “dedicated to engaging with the notion of ‘America’ through a consideration of US foreign policy and politics.” It was published under the title North Korea Video Feature: The Wonderful World of the Regime’s YouTube Channel (McFadden) on 27 May 2012. –CanKor]
On 14 July 2010, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with the username “uriminzokkiri”, created its official YouTube channel.
Since that day, 3000 videos have been posted, and the channel has more than 3000 subscribers and more than 2 million views of its footage. In comparison, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has three times the population of North Korea, has less than 2000 subscribers and about 2.5 million visits.
Given the general lack of Internet access in North Korea, most of the views are probably from foreigners. So it is worth noting the few videos that promote themselves with English subtitles, mainly condemning the US and the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Most of these clips show footage of American and South Korean and military drills to illustrate accusations that the “West” is trying to kill the peace process and the reunification of Korea — Lee Myung-bak is framed as a sell-out to the US, wanted for “anti-reunification crimes”.
Disney, Take Note — the North Korean regime’s cartoon animals portray conflict and re-unification
Aside from newsreels, there are videos of beautiful landscapes and paintings of regime leaders, accompanied by gentle music that sounds like a mixture of a Western orchestra and eastern instruments. Most of this propaganda attempts to portray North Korea as a safe and peaceful place to live — perhaps that is why there are no videos of the recent failed missile test.
The site also has hundreds of animated cartoons. The majority of these depict two animals fighting over something, probably symbolizing the struggle between the two halves of Korea. These cartoons often end with a reference to unification of North and South, as the animals become friends.
One of the more striking cartoons features a young boy, who falls asleep while doing his math homework and dreams of blowing up American warships and landing craft with missiles. While the other boys in his dream are successful at hutting their targets, the main character does not know how to zero in on the proper coordinates because he did not learn from his homework. When he wakes from the nightmare, he immediately returns to his studies.
So whom are the North Korean regime trying to convince? South Koreans? Chinese? Young children and students in the West? Maybe a general effort to improve on their 13% approval rating in the US — which,disturbingly, is the same as that for Congress?
It is doubtful that any of these audiences will be swayed into sympathy for Pyongyang. Still, the videos make a contribution: they offer a window into the thinking of North Korean regime in the 21st century.