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Thursday, February 2, 2023

An influencer in North Korea Might Be a Propagandist

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Youtuber 'Yu Mi' introduces herself on her first video covering the daily lives of Pyongyang residents, uploaded on Aug. 2, 2022. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Youtuber ‘Yu Mi’ introduces herself on her first video covering the daily lives of Pyongyang residents, uploaded on Aug. 2, 2022. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

A North Korean YouTuber is posting videos that she claims offer a glimpse into life on the other side of the DMZ.

Her sincere looking and somewhat amateurish efforts come as the North Korean government works to disseminate propaganda via social media, though it’s not clear whether the YouTuber’s efforts are by the individual or sponsored by the state.

Calling herself “Yu Mi,” the woman has been posting since August 2022 on the “Olivia Natasha- YuMi Space DPRK daily” channel.

In “Yu Mi from Pyongyang,” her first video, the YouTuber says she wants to show how Pyongyang is changing and how people are living their daily lives, along with how she lives. She believes some people may be curious about how Pyongyang is doing since the pandemic has made it difficult to visit the North Korean capital in recent years.

Videos on the channel shows clips of Yu Mi buying drinks and sweets at a grocery store, visiting an amusement park and eating bulgogi, or marinated stir-fried beef, at a restaurant. Yu Mi’s channel was created on June 21, 2022, and currently has 10 videos.

Yu Mi focuses on emphasizing Pyongyang as a lovely place to live through her videos. In the most recent post on Jan. 13, she visits a fitness center for personal training and yoga classes.

Analysts say Yu Mi may come from a privileged family, noting that most facilities she introduces are only enjoyed by those highest in the social and political order, even among Pyongyang residents.

A different North Korean YouTuber named Im Song-a, an 11-year-old YouTuber who also lives in Pyongyang, was identified as a daughter of a North Korean diplomat to London and great-granddaughter of Ri Ul-sol, an ex-marshal of North Korea’s Army, in July 2022 by Thae Young-ho, a North Korean defector and a member of the People Power Party.

Analysts say North Korea is training YouTubers as a strategy to increase government propaganda. Yu Mi mentions that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is making an effort to improve the lives of Pyongyang residents.

Kang Dong-wan, a professor at Dong-A University, said North Korea is utilizing private accounts for propaganda after the state-ran channels were repeatedly shut down for violating platform policies.

“The strategy is to use videos containing the daily lives of residents to say ‘we’re not so different.'”

A google spokesperson said videos of private channels covering North Korean people’s daily lives are not in violation of its policies.

BY CHUNG YEONG-GYO,SOHN DONG-JOO [sohn.dongjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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