The drama, set in the late 19th century, presents the imperial Qing Dynasty, just before its collapse and at the height of its corruption, in the lead up to the Xinhai Revolution, known also as the Chinese Revolution or the Revolution of 1911. The drama, focused on this historic time period, was originally broadcast with Korean subtitles. Somehow, copies of the drama were snuck into North Korea and reproduced in mass to be sold on black markets.

The reporting partner explained, “Up until now, the authorities took small bribes and turned a blind eye to people caught watching Chinese dramas. But now, they are cracking down specifically on “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. Since early August, the ‘109 Division’ has been conducting surprise inspections, at day and night, of private homes. They inspect not only televisions and notetels (small laptop-sized DVD players) but computers and mobile phones as well.”

The Kim Jong-un regime has been paying keen attention to the influx of information from South Korea, focusing on censoring dramas and movies. The authorities sentence those caught watching foreign media to a minimum of 1 year of hard labor and hand out sentences of 2-3 years to those caught selling or distributing copies. A similarly severe punishment is expected to be imposed on those caught watching “Nothing Gold Can Stay”.

Since late May, the power situation has improved slightly in provincial cities, with electricity currently available for about 4-6 hours a day in the northern part of the country. As a result, a growing number of people are secretly watching foreign dramas at home.

※Note: This year, many people were arrested after the Kim Jong-un regime launched a massive investigation into the spread of the South Korean hit film, “A Taxi Driver”, a film depicting the South Korean youth’s struggle for democratization.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” and South Korean dramas are believed to be smuggled in from China on USB sticks or SD cards. It is believed that some groups are smuggling media content purely for the purpose of profit-making, while other groups are introducing outside information to the country for human rights activism.

※ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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