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North Korea uses award-winning movie from South to praise own regime

18 June 2019, MVT 17:33
In a photo taken on April 14, 2019 tourists from China take photos as they stand on Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang. - Ordinary Chinese pay travel companies around 2,500 yuan (360 US dollars) for a standard three-day trip to North Korea, arriving overland by train in Pyongyang to tour the capital's highlights, from the Arch of Triumph to Kim Il Sung Square. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) /
18 June 2019, MVT 17:33

An award-winning South Korean film about social inequality was used by the North on Tuesday to claim its citizens live a better life than their cross-border neighbours.

"Parasite", a tragicomic tale about the widening gulf between rich and poor in South Korea, last month became the first film from the country to win the Cannes film festival's highest honour, the Palme d'Or.

"This film gaining popularity in South Korea is clearly letting people know that capitalism is a rotten and sick society with a malignant tumor of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots that has no hope or future," said an editorial on the North Korean propaganda website DPRK Today.

"The movie realistically portrays a sub-basement apartment with severe fungus odour, without wifi and that gets flooded with (sewage) water when it rains," it added.

"In contrast, others admire and envy North Korea as anyone in the country lives a life with a sense of equality and fairness."

In reality, North Korea operates a system known as "songbun" that rewards individuals according to their perceived loyalty to the regime, and which results in hugely differing living conditions and opportunities.

The isolated country -- which is under several sets of sanctions because of its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes -- also suffers chronic food shortages. It recorded its worst harvest for a decade last year, according to the United Nations.

Average incomes were about four percent of those in the South in 2017, according to the most recent statistics available from Seoul.

But South Korea, Asia's fourth biggest economy, also grapples with social problems.

The country currently has one of the world's lowest fertility rates, and scholars say social inequality -- linked to the country’s long work hours, high cost of housing, education and child rearing -- is one of the major causes.

As of 2017, over 17 percent of the country lived in relative poverty -- defined as surviving on less than half of the median household income -- according to South Korean government data.

"Parasite" also features a character who mockingly imitates a North Korean news presenter, but the filmmaker has said the scene was more of a joke and should not be understood as a criticism of Pyongyang.

Seoul, South Korea | AFP |

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