North Koreans like emojis too, researcher says

Aug. 30 (UPI) — Young North Koreans are spreading the consumption of South Korean popular culture through mobile phones while recharging them with solar devices in the energy-scarce country.

The use of emojis, popular on the South Korean messaging platform Kakao Talk, is undergoing rapid adoption among young North Koreans who have found a way to circumvent strict regulations in the country, South Korean news agency News 1 reported.

The findings were based on surveys of recent defectors, who told researcher Cho Jeong-ah of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a South Korea-run think tank, the phones they used in the North were mainly used for leisure activities.

The number of phones in use has dramatically increased in the last decade, Cho said, from 1,694 registered users in 2008 to more than 3.7 million in 2017.

“Youth and the elderly have proportionally higher rates of mobile phone use,” Cho said.

North Korean use of mobile phones, however, is strictly limited to local data, and access to the worldwide Internet is prohibited, Cho said.

Young North Koreans use phones to view movies, read novels or listen to music. They get around censors through the use of different Secure Digital or SD cards and use their phones as a window to South Korean culture, according to the researcher.

“A young man in his 20s who once lived in Pyongyang would carry three or four SD cards with him, switching them out and sharing them with friends,” Cho said. “They especially enjoyed watching South Korean music videos.”

Use of South Korean slang for “boyfriend” or “baby” is also a marker of an “awoke person” among young North Koreans, Cho said, quoting a defector who left North Hamgyong Province in 2015 who said the use of emojis were popular in his hometown.

While North Koreans engage in behavior frowned upon by the state, the regime has also done its part to increase the range of leisure activities and destinations in the country.

The study shows Kim Jong Un has been focusing on “improving people’s lives” through the building of amusements parks, a zoo and a natural science museum, according to Money Today.


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