North Korea denounces U.S., Japan, South Korea for 'cultural decadence'

Pyongyang is wary of the growing influence of popular culture from outside its borders and the waning influence of its old system.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea denounces U.S., Japan, South Korea for 'cultural decadence'
Newly hired North Korean hostesses, working at a North Korean restaurant next to their embassy, take an afternoon off to see their new neighborhood in Beijing in 2012. North Korea condemned foreign influence in the country on Friday, but North Koreans are following new fashion trends and defying authorities. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, July 24 (UPI) -- North Korea denounced the U.S., Japan and South Korea on Friday but a source said ordinary North Koreans are not heeding Pyongyang's warnings about the "toxins of capitalism" infiltrating the country.

North Korea's state newspaper Rodong Sinmun issued the warning about embracing the "cultural decadence" of Pyongyang's foes on Friday, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.


"We must cast a two-fold, or three-fold mosquito net to keep out the toxins of capitalism," Pyongyang said.

North Korea's condemnation of foreign influence, however, may not be affecting the latest lifestyle choices of ordinary people.

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A North Korea source told South Korean outlet Daily NK more North Koreans are purchasing sunglasses to show a bit of status – and that they know a few things about the modern world.

"If you wear sunglasses, you are seen as someone who is ambitious and aware of trends," the source said.

The new status symbol is challenging past systems of social class in North Korea, the source added.

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North Koreans who are "nouveau riche" tend to purchase used, imported sunglasses or those with color-changing lenses, and regular sunglasses are worn across all income levels.


A growing number of young people also are dyeing their hair to emulate the stars in smuggled South Korean television shows, the source said, an act that could be severely punished.

North Koreans who defy the authorities often escape punishment by avoiding security agents – using back alleys and shortcuts when they are out in public.

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North Korea's state media denounced the spread of South Korea "propaganda" and accused Seoul and other anti-socialist nations of "pouring funds" into the country, targeting North Korea youth.

The article in the Rodong warned against those inside the country who are straying from class principle and "taking advantage of the leadership's accomplishments," a statement that alluded to the execution of Jang Song Thaek and the purge of Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol.

"Without mercy, they must be swept away," Pyongyang said.

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