Smuggled video offers glimpse of life in North Korea

AFP-JIJI

Rare video footage from North Korea has emerged showing men enjoying a night out at a karaoke salon catering to relatively wealthy North Koreans making money from often illicit cross-border trade.

The content of the hidden-camera footage, which could not be independently verified, was released by a South Korean pastor, Kim Sung-eun, known for helping North Koreans escape to Seoul.

The grainy video included footage of a group of men and women, speaking with North Korean accents, drinking beer, singing, dancing and kissing in a South Korean-style karaoke “room salon.”

“This is a North Korean equivalent of a room salon, in the form of a restaurant combined with a karaoke where women serve male clients,” Kim told reporters in Seoul.

“South Korean culture is very well known in the North via smuggled videos. The speed of it spreading to the North is getting faster and faster,” he added.

By the standards of South Korean karaoke salons that employ hostesses and are popular after-hours venues for salarymen, the scene was quite tame.

The women were conservatively dressed and the dancing was only mildly suggestive, with the two women running their hands down each other’s clothed bodies.

Kim said it was one of a new breed of night-life establishments being set up with Chinese funding to cater to North Koreans making money from cross-border trade with its giant neighbor.

“Workers and officials involved in foreign trade have been making fortunes in recent years, and they are the main clients,” he told reporters.

Other footage showed a vibrant outdoor market where vendors were selling electronics and cellphone accessories.

Video of daily life in North Korea, especially outside the capital, Pyongyang, remains very rare.

Tourists to the North are only taken to approved locations, while foreign journalists who visit or work in North Korea are always accompanied by government minders who control whom and what they film.

Kim has released similar hidden camera footage before, saying he obtains it from “sources” in North Korea who smuggle it out of the country.

He declined to specify the location of each section of footage, but said it was shot over six months in a number of venues, including the northeastern port cities of Chongjin and the special economic zone of Rajin.