When my colleagues and I were reading up on North Korea’s recent political happenings last week, we chanced upon this amazing clip.* It’s a music video for a song by Bochonbo Electronic Music Band, whose lead singer was Hyon Song Wol—one of North Korea’s biggest pop stars and, many suspect, either the new wife or mistress of leader Kim Jong Un.
Yes, that’s the real title.
The video is fascinating and frightening at the same time. It features Ms. Hyon scurrying about a textile factory, cheering on the workers to greater productivity. It’s a blatant propaganda piece, like the band’s other two hits, “I Love Pyongyang” and “We Are the Troops of the Party” (watch the latter at your own risk—it’s a disturbing ode to Kim Jong Il). South Korean intelligence officials say she’s “responsible” for these songs, though given Bochonbo Electronic Music Band was a rare state-sanctioned pop group, I’d imagine the Workers Party propagandists at least had a hand in the lyric writing. (No word on whether the earsplittingly awful combination of decades-old synthesizers and traditional melodies are Ms. Hyon’s doing or the government’s work.)
The band was massively popular in North Korea in its mid-2000s heyday—mainly because North Koreans had precious little else to choose from since the government controls all forms of entertainment. Realizing this as I watched “Excellent Horse-Like Lady,” I just about shed a tear of joy and gratitude for the fact that I live in a free nation where the government doesn’t control what I listen to and watch—we’re all free to choose.
And not just choose, but to create—which carries plenty of economic benefits. In free, democratic nations, people are free to start a band, write a song, record and release it as they wish. Free commerce lets them sell their work and, potentially, earn a livelihood from it (or at least earn enough to keep going while they keep their day job). Intellectual property rights allow artists to protect their work, giving them even more incentive to create. Free enterprise lets people form record labels, creating jobs for sales people, marketers and talent scouts. It also lets people open bars, clubs, theaters and other concert venues where artists can perform, earning more money from ticket and merchandise sales and helping create jobs for service and technical staff. Easy interstate commerce and a lack of travel restrictions enable musicians to tour—and successful touring musicians need drivers and road crews. Which means more jobs.
More jobs, more economic output and more good music—pretty good byproducts of artistic and economic freedom, if you ask me. North Korea, take note.
*Hat Tip: Todd Bliman