Upbeat video casts Kim Jong Un as North Korea’s father figure

But expensive musical equipment shown in the video may violate sanctions.
By Park Jaewoo for RFA Korean
Upbeat video casts Kim Jong Un as North Korea’s father figure An April 28, 2024 Reddit post claims a North Korean band is using Japanese-made instruments in a recent music video, a Korg Kronos and a Roland FA-07.
screenshot via Reddit

UPDATED on May 7, 2024 at 8:45 a.m. ET.

An upbeat and unusually high quality propaganda music video coming out of North Korea purports to show a prosperous, modern society full of happy people who love their leader.

Titled “Friendly Father,” the rousing song depicts soldiers, students, steel workers and others singing Kim Jong Un’s praises. 

“He is holding his 10 million children in his arms and taking care of us with all his heart,” go the lyrics. 

But the video also shows some equipment used to produce the song that may be in violation of international sanctions that have banned the import of luxury goods into North Korea since 2006.

They include Korg and Roland synthesizers, headphones by Sony and a speaker that looks similar to a model manufactured by U.S. firm Harmon Kardon. 

An analysis of the equipment appeared on a keyboard enthusiasts page on popular internet bulletin board Reddit, where the keyboards were identified as the Korg Kronos and the Roland FA-07.

The synthesizers sell for between US$2,000 and $3,000 in the United States. 

Luxury goods were defined by the U.N. Sanctions Committee on North Korea as those beyond the purchasing ability of ordinary North Korean residents. Japan therefore defines expensive musical instruments as luxury goods.

RFA was not able to confirm how or when the equipment was imported to North Korea.

A spokesperson from Roland stated in an email that the company has never sold any products to North Korea, adding that the Roland FA-07 was manufactured in 2014, but that no purchase records from that year were available.

A spokesperson from Sony confirmed that the company complies with sanctions and does not conduct business in North Korea.

A Harman Kardon representative told RFA that after thoroughly reviewing the video, the company determined that the speaker shown was not manufactured by Harmon Kardon and reiterated that the company neither sells nor distributes products in North Korea in compliance with strict trade policies.

Evading sanctions

North Korean media often shows the use of foreign goods that should be barred due to sanctions.

According to NK news, a media specializing in North Korea, on April 28th, six Toyota SUVs  and a Land Cruiser 300 that had never been seen before, appeared in Kim Jong Un’s security procession.

North Korea is flaunting its ability to evade sanctions by showcasing sanctioned items in media, Bruce Klingner, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, explained in a phone call with RFA 

“It just encourages the entity, whether it's governments or businesses, to just continue violating the rule,” he said. “What we've seen is a number of nations, predominantly China and Russia, who blatantly violate the U.N. resolutions by assisting North Korea.”

A Korg Kronos is displayed May 7, 2011. (synthfiend via Wikipedia)

Though the video focuses on scenes of happy North Korean people, when it shows Kim Jong Un, it attempts to portray him as acting fatherly towards children. 

In one shot he is hugging a small child while another looks on. In the next, he meets several young students who cry at his very presence. 

A third shot shows several male members of the military embracing the smiling leader.

“Let's love Kim Jong Un, our friendly father,” the lyrics say. “We all trust and follow him with one heart.”

Translated by Claire S. Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Edited by Eugene Whong.

Correction: A previous version of this report identified a speaker shown in the video as having been manufactured by Harmon Kardon. The company said the speaker is not one of its products.

Update adds statements from Sony and Hardon Karmon.


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