TV North Korea – A life threating experience

Watching TV in North Korea appears to be a mix between propaganda and old western style TV programing. The programming is dictated by the State and all programs are made with the communist doctrine imbedded in it. It’s strictly prohibited to distribute or watch foreign TV shows and movies in North Korea. Kim Jong-un has reportedly sent security forces house-to-house searching for illicit DVDs and flash drives. If they do that for watching TV what is the consequence for using illegal use social media or Internet. This totalitarian control over television seemed to be extreme until I unearthed a newspaper article by David Boroff in the New York Daily News, Monday 11th November 2013. In this piece Boroff reported the public execution of groups of North Koreans found guilty of watching South Korean TV programs smuggled into the North as DVDs and on flash drives. These actions go against so many human rights seriously makes me feel ill.

However, the people of North Korea continue to watch TV smuggled into the country and live in fear of the consequences because they have a curiosity about the outside world which needs to be satisfied at some cost. North Korean Central Television endeavors to prevent this by offering alternatives by copying western style programs but in 1970’s formats. This programing offers the North Korean population fortunate enough to have access to a TV reflects only the western cultural aspects in a negative light. The west is still the enemy and must be portrayed as such. This is one of the reasons levels of curiosity are so high that North Koreans would risk everything for some exposure to the outside world through illegal TV.

We, on the other hand, can watch North Korean TV streamed live onto our computers through This link is a window into the world of North Korea through TV and this helped me deepen my understanding of their world. The experience provided an interesting comparison between our obvious ability to freely broadcast content which reflects a wide cultural basis and offers a view of the world which gives viewers a choice. North Korean watchers are not afforded the privilege but in a largely peasant society where TV consumption I restricted they are unaware of the oppressive controls placed on their TV. They only know the martial music, military propaganda and State promoting content they are given by the Government. Until it is easier to access an alternative they will be unaware.


  1. Hey James,

    What an interesting topic to investigate! We hear so much about the oppressive regime in North Korea, however not the intricate details as to how they are implemented. It would seem assumable that the only content being produced by their media is of militarised, totalitarian propaganda with no genuine information outside of the nation. However the point about the repercussions for citizens caught with dvds from outside North Korea is astounding and I really like that you raised the point of how easy it is for people in western societies to access their content. It’s an important comparison and I think you brought a good analysis to it.


  2. North Korea is such an intriguing subject for a communications student because their laws seem to go against everything we learn journalism should be about, namely an institution that serves the public interest by performing a watchdog role and ensuring accountability and transparency of government agencies.

    It’s truly disturbing that in this day and age there are still regimes that violate human rights laws to such an extreme, for actions that for us are daily habits. I’m amazed that people would risk their lives to find out news about other sources, and as well admire the bravery of journalists within North Korea who try to smuggle news to the outside world to alert people to the humanitarian condition within.

    You might have already come across this source but I found an interesting report about the changing media environment in North Korea:


  3. This is a great topic to look into! I think you did a great job in research and maintaining reliability in your approach. I’m continually amazed by how controlled the North Korean government is. As jessmoxx says above, I’m also amazed that people risk their lives for something we consider so small. We take these things for granted because DVD’s and such are so easily accessible to us. I can understand why they would risk so much, and I admire their bravery for it.


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