March 07, 2021

All glamor, no edge? North Korean music is going back to conservative values

North Korea's most recent Lunar New Year's concert signals a return to more traditional tastes

Whether it be women dancing on stage in military uniforms or an elaborate orchestra clad in pink gowns and suits, North Korea has a long tradition of staging elaborate concerts in honor of big national celebrations dating back to the country’s earliest years. 

The recent Lunar New Year (“seollal”) concert on Feb. 11 tells us about North Korea’s latest ideological messaging. Years ago, Kim Jong Un emerged as the country’s leader with the accompaniment of a band called Moranbong — a girl group donned in flashy, short dresses that made some hope that North Korea was on the verge of liberalization or a Westernized version of a new DPRK leader.