Kim Jong Un’s ‘Friendly Father’ Song Goes Viral on TikTok. South Korea Has Already Banned It

  • The propaganda song, which praises the North Korean leader as a “friendly father,” has a catchy beat and an epic music video.

  • South Korea has decided to ban it, considering it to be a method of “psychological warfare” against the country.

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North Korea has managed to provoke South Korea with one of its recent launches. Ironically, as ABC News recently pointed out, the launch has nothing to do with nuclear missiles, spy satellites, drones, or any other weaponry. 

What North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has launched is a song that has gained popularity on TikTok and has annoyed South Korean authorities at the same time. The song, titled "Friendly Father," features a colorful video, orchestral music, a catchy chorus, and, most importantly, politically charged lyrics.

With the song’s title, North Korea is clearly making a statement.

And, predictably, South Korea has now decided to ban it.

"Friendly Father." You may or may not like its catchy beat, chorus, lyrics, and the peculiar combination of colors and choreography in its music video. However, one undeniable aspect of the "Friendly Father" song is how direct it is. Although it’s only a couple of minutes long, it’s filled with verses that glorify the North Korean leader, portraying him as a “friendly father.”

But the praising doesn’t stop here. The song repeatedly emphasizes that he’s a “father” and a “great leader,” which is reminiscent of the “Supreme Leader” title that was once used for his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. As if that wasn’t enough, the song repeatedly urges others to celebrate the current leader of the North Korea: “Let’s sing of Kim Jong Un, our great leader. Let’s boast of Kim Jong Un, our friendly father.”

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On the bus, at the factory, even inside a tank. "Friendly Father" is not a rare sight. The BBC notes that, in reality, it’s just the latest in a series of pop-style songs produced by North Korea's propaganda machine over the past few decades. This particular song has gained attention, and even made it to the front pages of The Guardian and The Telegraph, because of its catchy rhythm, panegyric lyrics, and interesting music video.

The video features North Koreans of all ages singing to Kim in several settings, including medalists, children, workers, nurses, elderly women, female soldiers, marines, pilots, and more. Some are singing from tanks or on fighter or passenger planes. Others are singing in operating rooms, buses, ambulances, streets, or in auditoriums with musicians. Throughout the video, there are images of the North Korean leader, along with choruses, an epic arrangement, and displays of flags and patriotic gestures.

From Pyongyang to TikTok. The song was not only distributed online. North Koreans were able to enjoy it live during a ceremony that celebrated the inauguration of a new 10,000-apartment residential complex in Pyongyang, the North Korea capital. Parts of the performance were eventually broadcast on North Korea’s state-run TV.

Surprisingly (or not), it's gone viral on TikTok, where the video has been shared from different accounts and has received thousands of messages. There are even versions of it available with subtitles. Some influencers who have jumped in to talk about its message, such as Jihwan Park, a South Korean content creator living in Canada. Park states that the song is “kind of catchy” and “kind of funny,” but he points out that it comes from a nation where "there’s still lots of innocent people dying.”

An involuntary hit or calculated staging? The tone, message, and staging of "Friendly Father" have led some analysts to question Pyongyang’s intentions. Beyond the obvious purpose of spreading propaganda, experts are asking if the video’s tone and staging were deliberate. Has Kim’s publicity machine achieved its desired effect?

“I think people are not really realizing the true nature of the strategy that lies behind the creation and distribution of a video like this,” Monash University’s Emma Briant, who specializes in propaganda and information warfare, told ABC News.

Briant thinks that "Friendly Father" was purposely created for “mass distribution.” She suggests that its colorful, almost Soviet look and feel wasn’t conceived by naive publicists who didn’t anticipate the reactions the video would generate in the West. “I think this video was created deliberately to be humorous,” she adds. The goal: To build “a more positive reputation [for Kim] worldwide,” which could help him in win both regional and international influence.

South Korea’s veto. Whether right or wrong, the South Korean government has made clear it wants nothing to do with the viral song. The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) issued a press release stating that it would ban the hit song and block 29 versions of it, although it hasn’t disclosed many details about how this will be done. At the request of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the KCSC decided to take this action after finding that the song violates the country’s National Security Law, which restricts access to Pyongyang-controlled websites and media.

“The video is typical content linked to psychological warfare against South Korea, as it was posted on a channel operated to connect with the outside world and mainly focused on unilaterally idolizing and glorifying Kim,” the South Korean regulator states. Anyhow, the veto comes after many South Koreans have already seen the video, which was released in April. Some South Koreans have left comments online, cheekily asking government authorities to make the video accessible again.

Image | Vietnam Mobiography via Flickr | Ryan Chan via Flickr

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