It feels like everyone on the internet is watching Netflix’s escaped hit Octopus game, and it includes a North Korean propaganda site praising the series for “reveal the reality of South Korean society, where weak meat and corruption have been on the rise and crooks are common.”
The comment comes from Arirang Meari (via Insider), and that is exactly what you would expect from a totalitarian state’s mouthpiece. The play fights the inequality that South Korean capitalism and a society create where “people are treated like chess pieces”.
This is not the first time that North Korean propaganda sites have done such a thing. According to Reuters, a North Korean daily also praised Bong Joon-Ho Parasite to do the same when it won the Oscar to best picture in 2020. It’s just who is all this grandstanding for?
As you might imagine, North Korea does not have Netflix. (Even if it did create a Netflix-like app called My Companion 4.0 in 2017.) And even though North Koreans have access to smartphones, they are limited to something called kwangmyongor a state-controlled intranet that does not have access to the outside world. Internet access as we know it in the United States is restricted to those with special permission. Basically, the average North Korean citizen is unlikely to have access to Octopus game. So either the propaganda is aimed at citizens, or it is sticks South Korea and the outside world … which do not do give one hear what North Korea thinks about capitalism.
It is possible that Octopus game can do it across the 48th parallel. Activists have been known for send balloons with leaflets or USB drives containing K-dramas as a means of exposing North Korea’s shit. However, it is a dangerous past. Caught them watching South Korean dramas face being imprisoned, sent to labor camps or executed. In 2014, at least 50 people were reportedly executed in public to do just that — including 10 officials from leader Kim Jong-Un’s own party. Kim Jong-un also called recently K-pop an “evil cancer,” a trait that was spurred by that South Korean pop culture – of which Octopus game is a part – is about to stay increasingly popular among younger North Koreans.
Although a person was brave enough to watch smuggling content, it is still a bad look for the regime. One of Octopus game‘s favorite fan character, Kang Sae-byeok, is a North Korean defector whose main reason for participating in the dystopian tournament is to make money by bringing his family to South Korea. Goodbye too hides her North Korean accent when speaking to South Korean characters, and being ridiculed as one “commie” or “spy”, when other characters notice it. That’s beyond the fact the entire series negatively depicts arbitrary violence and executions over violations.
The irony of all this is really independent on the next level. Then again, maybe no one writing the propaganda has seen the show itself.