Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

State-endorsed popular culture: a case study of the North Korean girl band Moranbong

By Tai Wei Lim

1st September, 2017 - Arts, culture & society | Asia, East Asia

This article examines the emergence of Moranbong as a new popular cultural phenomenon in North Korea. I am interested to examine the patron–client relationship in North Korea by analysing the personal patronage extended by North Korean autocrat Kim Jong-un to the all-female pop band Moranbong. In return for propaganda performances to convey images of material well-being of the regime and extolling the virtues of the ultimate leader, the autocratic regime bestows social recognition, legitimacy and fame to Moranbong members as a reward. Through an analysis of patron–client relationship in the North Korean political system, I move on to examine the ideological contents of Moranbong and the propaganda value-add they bring to the North Korean political system. Here, interpretations of Moranbong’s symbolisms by both internal and external audiences are examined based on media reports and other writings that originated from both Korean and international sources.

Photo: Stephan on flickr


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