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North Korea accuses South's corporations of exploiting BTS, Blackpink

South Korean boy band BTS was mentioned in a statement from North Korea that denounced “exploitation” of young artists. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
South Korean boy band BTS was mentioned in a statement from North Korea that denounced “exploitation” of young artists. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 17 (UPI) -- North Korea likened globally popular K-pop groups to "slaves," as the regime continues to crack down on banned media and "corrupting influences."

North Korean propaganda service Arirang Meari claimed in a recent statement that popular groups, including BTS and Blackpink, are leading "miserable lives" because of the policies of South Korean corporations.

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In South Korea, local news service NK Economy reported the North Korean statement Tuesday.

"Well-known South Korean singers in their youth are being forced to lead miserable lives under South Korean conglomerates, according to South Korean media," the North Korean propaganda service said.

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The statement also said BTS -- a group that recently performed at the 63rd Grammy Awards -- and Blackpink, had both signed exclusive contracts with agencies "like SM Entertainment" at a young age. The artists were under contract since childhood, Arirang Meari claimed.

SM Entertainment is one of South Korea's largest entertainment companies. One of its bands, Red Velvet, visited Pyongyang in 2018 to perform at a concert attended by Kim Jong Un.

BTS' members are currently in their 20s, but some performers, including RM, began auditioning at age 15.

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North Korean media claimed the performers enjoy limited freedom and "sleep only two or three hours a day."

"In addition, most of the profits are collected by the large companies, in the name of training expenses," Arirang Meari said.

State media also claimed artists have died by suicide because of "unfair contracts," without naming specific singers or personalities.

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Viewing South Korean media is punishable by law in the North, defectors have said. Penalties have not stopped the spread of entertainment media, however.

Daily NK previously reported searches of homes in North Korea turned up flash drives containing the music of BTS and South Korean television dramas. The owners were arrested, the South Korean news service reported in 2019.

In February North Korea's Socialist Women's Union denounced "cultural and ideological infiltration."

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