No Permission to Dance? : Soldier in North Korea allegedly arrested for dancing to BTS

All South Korean media is strictly forbidden in North Korea, including BTS. (Image via Reuters, @bighitentertainment)
All South Korean media is strictly forbidden in North Korea, including BTS. (Image via Reuters, @bighitentertainment)

After a group of high school kids in North Korea were severely punished for watching Squid Game, a North Korean soldier has been arrested for allegedly performing a dance made popular by BTS.

The leader of the authoritarian state, Kim Jong Un, famously called the mega popular Korean band, and other K-pop artists, a “vicious cancer” corrupting young North Koreans’ “attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors.” The dictator’s state media has also warned North Korea’s citizens in the past that if left unchecked, South Korean influence would make North Korea “crumble like a damp wall.”

The latest case is part of a bigger agenda on the part of the country’s authorities, to crack down on allegedly “anti-socialist” behavior. For the authorities, engaging with music videos and other media from South Korea make up a big part of these types of behavior, and are strictly forbidden.


The North Korea soldier denied knowing who BTS was

According to a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province the soldier was a man in his twenties with the surname Kim. He was a platoon leader in a Ninth Corps patrol company. On November 12, he was apprehended by the Ministry of State Security's corps branch.

The soldier was accused of performing a dance by BTS, during the government mandated "recreation time" the day before.

North Korea’s military grants two hours of recreational time after day’s work, in a bid to increase morale. During one such break, Soldier Kim took charge, and danced to lift the mood of the other soldiers, several of whom were struggling from economic troubles due to COVID-19.

Soon enough, the authorities were reportedly informed and he was taken away, having been accused of imitating the South Korean giant BTS.

Surprisingly, Kim denied even knowing who BTS was when questioned. He stated he was only performing a dance he used to do in his village to cheer up the troops.

The Ministry of State Security, however, accused the soldier of lying, and sentenced him to three months in the stockade.

According to the source, Kim was well-behaved and frequently solved the soldiers' problems. It was only because of his good reputation that he avoided dishonorable discharge and was not expelled from the communist party.

While it is not explicitly stated whether North Korea’s controversial law against “reactionary thought and culture,” bans people from doing South Korean dances, North Korea's efforts to suppress South Korean pop culture in tandem with ideological preaching assure that punishments like those meted out to Kim will continue.

Kim isn't the first North Korean soldier to be detained for dancing to BTS' music. Three North Korean soldiers were arrested in August 2020 after listening to and dancing to BTS' Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Three young cadets were also arrested in August 2021 for "belting out the lyrics" to Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

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