North Korea arrests teacher and students for ‘capitalist’ dance moves

North Korean authorities have arrested a dance teacher and several of her students after she used foreign media to teach them “capitalist” dance moves, sources in the country told RFA.

In late 2020, North Korea passed the draconian Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture Act, which punishes citizens for a wide variety of offenses, primarily related to viewing, keeping, or distributing media from capitalist countries, especially from South Korea and the United States. a maximum death penalty for serious offenders.

The law has also been used to punish drivers for tinting their car windows, students for using South Korean-style speech and slang, and now dance teachers for teaching youngsters to imitate. the movements of foreign pop stars.

“The anti-socialism inspection group caught a female dance teacher in her 30s who was teaching foreign-style disco dances to teenage students in Yangji-dong, Pyongsong City,” a resident of the town said. from Pyongsong in the northwest of the country, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA’s Korea Service on January 31.

“The Anti-Socialism Inspection Group, a joint operation of the State Security Department and the police, has cracked down intensively on people who watch South Korean films and distribute foreign media,” said the resident.

The source said North Korean authorities tend to be a little more lenient in enforcing rules around Seollal, the Lunar New Year holiday celebrated on Tuesday, the source said. Therefore, residents feel a bit freer to watch South Korean movies or listen to foreign songs during this time.

This year, however, the Anti-Socialism Inspection Group has been more vigilant in enforcing the Thought and Culture Law, she said.

“At the scene of the crackdown on the dance teacher that day, a USB drive containing foreign songs and dance videos was plugged in, next to the flat-screen TV,” the source said.

“The teenagers learned to dance by imitating the choreography on the screen. The Anti-Socialism Inspection Group seized the USB drive and took the instructor and all the students to their headquarters,” she said.

News of the arrests quickly traveled beyond the city and province. A resident of Sinuiju, about 210 kilometers northwest near the border with China, told RFA that someone told him the story two days before Seollal.

“From what I heard on the phone, this woman had majored in choreography at Pyongsong University of the Arts. A few years ago, she was assigned to teach at Okchon High School in Pyongsong” , said the second source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“But it was hard to live on the teacher’s monthly salary of just 3,000 won. [60 cents]so she made a living running a private dance academy from her home,” he said.

Middle and high school students reportedly take private lessons twice a week, for one- or two-hour sessions at a cost of around $10 an hour, according to the second source.

“They preferred to learn to dance like they do in South Korea, China and America, rather than in the North Korean style. So she taught them how to do it,” he said.

Another Pyongsong resident told RFA that the anti-socialism inspection group began to be more active in December.

“The granddaughter of a provincial party official was caught with an SD card installed on her smartphone, and it contained South Korean movies. During the investigation, she disclosed how and where she purchased the SD card,” the third source said on condition of anonymity.

“The wealthy class usually buy USB sticks smuggled by sea from China. In the end, those who illegally sell or lend these USB drives and SD cards to teenagers are caught one after another, including a relative of a public prosecutor’s office,” she said.

The relative then confessed to whom he had sold the films and dance videos, which led authorities to the dance teacher, the source said.

“Members of the Anti-Socialism Inspection Group hid in civilian clothes around the dance teacher’s house for two days. … They saw many students coming in and then they raided the house,” the third source said.

Most of the students are children from wealthy families who are generally not subject to harsh penalties for offenses due to their money and power, according to the third source.

“However, since the Central Committee has ordered that those who violate the law on the elimination of reactionary thought and culture be severely punished, regardless of their rank or class, the foreign dance teacher and the students took this times will not be spared from hard labor. Their parents are also likely to be punished by being forced to quit the party,” the source said.