South Korean Karaoke Parlors Hear North Korean Propaganda: Lawmaker

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — Weeks after South Korea began blasting pop music and anti-Pyongyang broadcasts from loudspeakers along the border with the reclusive North, a decades-old propaganda war may have erupted on a new front — South Korean karaoke parlors.

A lawmaker from South Korea's largest party said some karaoke machines in Seoul featured songs glorifying North — and he likened the songs to "poison."

Hong Moon-pyo, of the ruling Saenuri Party, told Reuters that one of the songs features the lyrics: "Long live, long live, general Kim Jong Il!" referring to the North's previous leader.

Socialist sing-songs are unlikely to resonate in the liberal, capitalist South, but the karaoke songs may still contravene Seoul's National Security Law, which has banned distributing North Korean propaganda since 1948.

The tense neighbors are technically still at war after the Korean War of 1950-53 ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

"These karaoke machines have the power to break down our mentality and ideas. They are like a poison mushroom that can infect 50 million South Koreans," Hong said.

His office said it was not sure how widespread the use of the karaoke propaganda was — it had only found two so far, both in areas of the capital frequented by ethnic Koreans from northeast China and North Korean defectors.

But the fact that the songs, which include propaganda classics such as "Glory to the Dear Leader" and "Living well in the People's Paradise," could be sung in the South was almost as "shocking" as the North's nuclear weapons program, Hong's office said in a statement.

Hong said he had hired ethnic-Korean Chinese immigrants to secretly visit karaoke bars in areas where he believed the machines were in use.

"Like water soaking through a sponge, singing songs that praise North Korea can slowly penetrate our minds and make us weak," he said.