Doctor Stranger, aka Dakteo Yibangin, is a South Korean television drama, broadcast by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), that nation’s only privately-owned network. It tells the story of a South Korean doctor who travels to the North to treat dictator Kim Il-sung, only to be prevented from returning home. And according to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, the show’s fastest-growing group of fans is in North Korea itself.
All types of foreign media are banned in the Hermit Kingdom, despite the love of foreign cinema evinced by the ruling Kim family. Kim Jong-il, father of current despot Kim Jong-un, loved American movies, even movies that made fun of him. And of course, he famously kidnapped a South Korean film director and his wife, forcing his prisoner to film a ridiculous giant monster movie.
But those who dwell outside the “Central Luxury Residence” (the dictator’s home) face execution if they view foreign TV shows or movies; in 2013 as many as 80 innocent people were publicly machine-gunned for the “crimes” of watching South Korean television and owning Bibles. Indeed, the North has cracked down in outside media influences in recent years, and the Black Market for smuggled foreign media has dwindled.
But the Northern regime can’t stop the smuggling, and the reason why is so ironic, it’s like Alanis Morrissette and O. Henry had a baby. The top audience for South Korean and American TV and movies in North Korea is… members of the regime itself. Security forces don’t want to eliminate the Black Market, because that’s where they get their entertainment fix. Even die-hard Communist Party apparatchiks want their Game of Thrones, despite the fact that they live in a real life Westeros, complete with a psychotic boy king.
An unnamed source tells The Guardian that the sinister Group 109, which prosecutes “anti-Socialist” activities in North Korea, doesn’t make a habit of investigating the homes and viewing habits of party members. The next largest group of consumers of foreign media, students, does fall under their jurisdiction; but the agency is corrupt, and students can usually get out of trouble with a bribe, should they be lucky enough to have the money. So basically, Group 109 is the North Korean MPAA.
The source says that between 500 and 1,500 “illegal” DVDs and flash drives a day make it over the border into North Korea, about half the rate from before the crackdown.