South Korea Bans Viral “Kim Pop” Video Over Alleged Kim Jong Un Portrayal | FRIDAY DIGITAL

South Korea Bans Viral “Kim Pop” Video Over Alleged Kim Jong Un Portrayal

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In the trending music video “Dear Comrade,” Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is seen with a relaxed expression, letting down his bangs. (All photos are from the same video.)

A music video produced by North Korea is going viral on social media worldwide.

While North Korea is known for using politically charged music as a means of propaganda, this time, the catchy rhythm, melody, and the sight of performers raising their thumbs are garnering attention. On social media, some are even saying, “If South Korea has K-pop, then this is Kim-pop.” With military tensions rising between North Korea and South Korea, the South Korean government, wary of the content praising Kim Jong Un in the video, took measures to block its viewing within the country by the end of May.

On the other hand, North Korea’s propaganda media claims that they have received praise from listeners in Japan, the United States, and China. What is the aim behind North Korea’s unusual music video?


That announcer also gave a “thumbs up”! Kim Jong-Un also makes frequent appearances.

“Let’s sing for Kim Jong Un, the great leader♪” “Let’s boast about Kim Jong Un, our dear comrade♪”

In the video for the new song “Dear Comrade,” uploaded on YouTube on April 17th, people of all ages and backgrounds, from young to old, soldiers to workers, medical professionals, athletes, and even crew members of the state-owned Air Koryo, appear. Towards the end, prominent announcers from Korean Central Television, such as Ri Chun-hee, known for delivering “major news” such as the leader’s death or successful nuclear tests, also appear in traditional Chima chogori attire with broad smiles.

Korean Central Television announcer Ri Chun-hee (third from the left) showing a “thumbs up” gesture.

The thumbs up gesture towards the camera is repeated, and Kim Jong Un, who interacts with the public, also appears frequently. “Oboi” means parents, and in South Korea, May 8th is designated as “Parents’ Day.”

Even medical professionals are giving the thumbs up gesture.
Navy sailors are also giving enthusiastic thumbs up with smiles on their faces.
In the video, General Secretary Kim is always popular and well-received.

According to North Korean media, “Friendly Father” was performed at a commemorative concert held during the completion ceremony of 10,000 households in Pyongyang on April 16, attended by Kim Jong-un himself. The video was uploaded the following day. The official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, “Rodong Sinmun,” mentioned in the editorial on May 1st, Labor Day, that it was a “monumental hymn overflowing with endless gratitude and admiration from the people of the country to the beloved General Secretary.” On the 29th of the same month, the overseas radio program “Voice of Korea” featured this song, claiming that it had become a topic of conversation among listeners in Japan, who expressed their desire for more such songs to be created.

The main vocalist in the video was the singer Kim Ryong, who, according to South Korean media, made his debut at the commemorative event for the “Victory Day” of the Korean War (the anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement) held in Pyongyang on July 27, 2022. He also starred in the New Year’s celebration performance attended by Kim Jong-un as the new year approached in 2023. Kim Ryong is regarded as one of the new singers who are expected to succeed Lee Sol-ju, Kim Jong-un’s wife, and Hyeon Song-yi, the deputy director of the Workers’ Party.

The video starts off with a beautiful woman enthusiastically performing the song.

This is a story that might typically be treated with indifference, something like, “North Korea again.” However, this time it’s different.

On the video-sharing app TikTok, there are numerous videos with the English-translated song title “Friendly Father,” and some of these videos have reached hundreds of thousands of views. People are uploading their own videos dancing to the song or performing choreography similar to Korean idols. There are even Westerners expressing their desire to visit North Korea to hear the song performed live. It’s truly going viral.

In a May 4th article from Singapore, the BBC analyzed why this song became a sensation. They pointed out that it’s lively, fast-paced, dangerously catchy, and not so different from Western pop hits. TikTok users from Generation Z are comparing it to hits from popular Swedish music group ABBA, known for songs like “Dancing Queen,” and some even suggest it’s worthy of a Grammy. A North Korea analyst commented that the song is bright, incredibly catchy, and the orchestral arrangement is remarkably striking. The article also notes that Kim Jong-un likely never expected his song to become a hit on TikTok.

A scene of Kim Jong-un hugging a child actor.

Comments such as “It’s addictive,” “It’s catchy,” and “Even Trump (former US President) must be jealous” were seen on SNS platforms like TikTok. There were also posts comparing the appearance of the performers, who support Kim Jong-un zealously, to “no different from Trump supporters!”

South Korea restricts viewing, fearing idolization of Kim Jong-Un.

North Korea has frequently been reported to crack down harshly on its residents for consuming South Korean dramas and K-pop, punishing those caught watching them. However, this time, it’s South Korea that has imposed viewing restrictions on North Korean videos. Despite the ceasefire agreement signed in 1953, ending the Korean War, the conflict has not officially ended. In South Korea, handling North Korean media and propaganda materials, as well as contact with North Korean residents, are strictly restricted.

On May 20, the Korea Communications Standards Commission, at the request of the National Intelligence Service, decided to request the blocking of 29 videos related to “Friendly Father”. They found that the videos and lyrics violated South Korea’s National Security Law by idolizing and praising Kim Jong-un. However, the videos continued to be shared widely, and there were voices saying they could still be viewed normally, suggesting that not all access had been shut down.

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo pointed out that even if they block the videos domestically, there are virtually no measures they can take against overseas users. They expressed concern about the increasing consumption of propaganda songs without a particular awareness of the North Korean regime’s human rights abuses and its continued illegal nuclear and missile development.

Furthermore, they criticized the appearance of headphones with the SONY logo in the videos, arguing that it openly flouts a UN Security Council resolution prohibiting luxury goods exports to North Korea. North Korea has continued its provocations, launching more than 10 short-range ballistic missiles in late May, emitting signals to disrupt GPS, and sending waste to South Korea with large balloons, pushing South Korea into a defensive position.

Sony logo on the headphones of the performers.

North Korea’s intention behind releasing a pop music video.

According to Professor Atsushi Isozaki of Keio University, the video condenses the image of the leader that the propaganda department aims to convey.

“The image of a leader who is becoming familiar to the people is depicted from various angles, which also reflects the term people’s leader that has been used for several years.”


The Party Charter of the Workers’ Party of Korea has rewritten the previous “military-first policy” to “people-first politics,” and the televised portrayal of Kim Jong-un shedding tears while sympathizing with the people’s plight is also part of this change. Isozaki continued,

“While it is a praise song, the video’s production includes elements that would be refreshing to the people of North Korea, who have little entertainment. It is a modernized version of the ‘music politics’ advocated by Kim Jong-il, the former Chairman of the National Defense Commission, which is aimed at not only top-down coercive control but also eliciting active loyalty from the bottom.”

A North Korean watcher in Japan speculated that with the improvement in nuclear capabilities, there may be a newfound psychological and material comfort to focus on economic construction, making it easier to accept foreign cultures like the thumbs-up gesture and music styles.

Regarding the fact that “Kim Jong-un” is referred to without honorifics in the lyrics, it is not a particularly new phenomenon as there have been precedents, such as during military parades, and it could simply be a matter of fitting with the rhythm of the song.

Surrounded by children. In the video, he is smiling anyway.

North Korean defector researchers see this video as the first example of cultural engagement utilizing Western melodies in a music video, compared to the previous legal response to the influx of Hallyu culture, which involved punishment.

It remains to be seen whether North Korea can satisfy its citizens with its own content and “block” their interest in Hallyu. While the true reactions of North Korean citizens to the “Friendly Father” video are unknown, considering the overseas buzz generated by this experience, it’s undeniable that there’s a possibility for further “Kim Pop” to emerge.

  • Interview and text by Ryosei Onohara Ryosei Onohara

    Ryosei Onohara was born in 1979. He became interested in the Korean Peninsula after the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 and the first Japan-North Korea summit in 2002, and worked as a journalist there for about six years after studying in South Korea. He is well versed in U.S. affairs and international affairs, and has visited more than 20 countries for interviews and other purposes.

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