If You Speak With A Southern Accent In North Korea, You’ll Be Sent To The Coal Mines – H Talk Asia

In North Korea, speaking with a South Korean accent can get you expelled from school and sent to work in the coal mines.

That’s exactly what happened to four North Korean university students who were caught last month talking on their cell phones with the softer accents and pet names of their southern neighbors, sources in the country told H Talk Asia.

Students likely acquired the idiom from listening to banned songs, films or TV dramas such as “Crash Landing on You” or “Squid Game” that are smuggled into the country on USB sticks.

This way of speaking is seen as more demanding by her peers, the sources said.

But the North Korean authorities see it as a counter-revolutionary crime.

“The phenomenon of using a ‘puppet accent’ is defined by the Central Committee as an unforgivable act of sympathy with the enemy’s plot to infiltrate bourgeois ideology and culture,” a resident of North Hamgyong province told RFA.

In the past, those caught doing it had to write a statement of self-criticism promising they would never use the accent again, said the resident, who declined to be identified in order to be able to speak freely.

But lately, authorities have “ordered strong countermeasures, saying that the phenomenon of using the South Korean accent is a counter-revolutionary crime that can destroy our internal affairs,” he said.

Executed for distributing South Korean films

North Korea has cracked down after enacting a law in December 2020, the Rejection of Reactionary Thought and Culture Act, with a short-term punishment of up to two years of hard labor for those who speak, write or sing in the South Korean style.

Authorities are imposing stiffer penalties of up to 15 years in hard labor for those caught viewing South Korean videos, with the possibility of the death penalty for those who disseminate them.

This law prompted the authorities in October to execute two teenagers caught selling USB flash drives containing South Korean films or TV shows.

hey babe

In the incident in early December, one of the students at an agricultural college in Chongjin was overheard by a law enforcement officer uttering the word jagiya, which means “sweetheart” or “baby” in English, in a South Korean accent in the waiting room of a police officer at the local train station. The other three were caught making similar remarks.

The case was brought to the attention of the provincial committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and then reported to the Central Committee, the party’s main policy-making body.

The students were expelled from college and assigned to work at a coal mine in Onsong County, near the Chinese border.

According to the sources, after the incident, the authorities ordered a crackdown on such statements and increased ideological education of young people.

“A crackdown on the actual use of the puppet sound by all college students in downtown Chongjin and at the agricultural college where the incident occurred is underway,” the North Hamgyong resident said.

“Eliminate anti-socialist behavior”

Although they share the same language, North and South Koreans typically have different accents, and the terminology and pronunciation can also be very different.

For example, in the south a woman may call her husband “oppa” but not in the north where it is only used for older male siblings.

Authorities have also cracked down on officials from the Socialist Patriotic Youth League in North Hamgyong Province and Chongjin City for failing to properly educate and control college students, a resident of adjacent Ryanggang Province said.

“Authorities directed the Socialist Patriotic Youth League to thoroughly implement a youth education project on this occasion to root out anti-socialist behavior,” the source said.

Depending on the severity of the problem, officials who irresponsibly carried out the youth education project during the Youth League inspection are expected to be fired and punished by being sent to work in rural or other remote areas of the country for a specified period of time , he said.

“League officials are nervous,” he added.

According to the source, North Korea’s Central Committee warned league officials and those lacking the will and responsibility to root out “anti-socialist phenomena” that they would face ideological scrutiny.

“But no matter how much youth education is pushed, officials do not have the power to change accents [used by] young people,” he said. “League officials complain about the attitude of higher authorities to blame them if something happens.”

Translated by Claire Shinyoung Oh Lee and Leejin J. Chung for RFA Korean. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin. Edited by Malcolm Foster.