Did K-Pop Just Help the World Avoid Nuclear War on the Korean Peninsula?

The strip of no-man’s land along the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula is an extremely weird and dangerous place. A technical state of war still exists between the two Koreas with tensions always building and deflating, punctuated with occasional military actions on both sides.

Things have been getting steadily worse since chubby Kim Jong-un took over. Rumours of a long-term purge tell of government officials being executed for everything from falling asleep during important events to not raising enough turtles. One member of the defense ministry was sentenced to death by anti-aircraft gun. The weirdest story–later exposed as untrue–had Kim feeding his uncle to a pack of wild dogs.

There are plenty of things contributing to the current tensions: the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the DPRK; joint South Korea-US military exercises; accusations that the North has planted land mines on the south side of the DMZ. Mortars and bullets have sporadically flown from both sides.

The North is most upset about propaganda broadcasts coming from the South side of the border, something the North is trying to counteract with its own loudspeakers aimed south. Outside of the religious messages heading North, the thing that has Kim’s people so pissed off is a stream of K-pop songs. NK News reports:

“It usually broadcasts about ethnic homogeneity, that South and North share the same culture and history, the superiority of the South Korean system, including our culture of (capitalistic) consumption, the international economic standard and various types of K-pop,” one of the personnel involved in producing the program told NK News on condition of anonymity.


Between programs, it broadcasts South Korean songs. Some of these reach back to pre-K-pop days: On Thursday, “Closer Under the Sky” and “Tears Flow as I See the Southern Sky” by Lee Seung-hoon (this one, not this one) were played.

Let’s remember that the North is a nuclear nation–and that its leadership is nuts. A war started by syrupy love songs? Probably not because the music seems to have the desired effect. Diplomats from both sides are now talking about de-escalating the situation.

Wait: did K-pop just save the world from a nuclear conflict?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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