Seems even folks in North Korea are watching the mega-hit TV drama, “Descendants of the Sun.”

A North Korean defector recently told South Korea’s Kyunghyang Shimmun newspaper that his family well north of the DMZ had watched the first eight episodes of the 16-part KBS-TV series on the Internet. “Some North Koreans had begun to get love-sick with the drama,” the report said.


“More smartphones have been distributed to people and better Internet networks have been established compared to the past,” the local newspaper quoted a North Korean expert as saying.

Though North Korea is one of the most isolated states in the world and computers and cell phones are scarce, it’s still possible for locals to go online. Political and military leaders and their families can access what amounts to a small intranet service that includes a search engine, email and carefully vetted access to content outside North Korea.

Though Pyongyang keeps a watchful eye, it apparently wasn’t enough to stop northern fans of Descendants from downloading a drama that’s taken Asian audiences by storm. Episodes have already been downloaded over 2 billion times in China and are currently South Korea’s No. 1 TV show. The US-based video-streaming website Viki is stoking its popularity by distributing subtitled versions of the series available in 32 languages, including English, Chinese, Malaysian and Vietnamese.

Descendants of the Sun
Still from Descendants of the Sun

“Descendants of the Sun” spins the romantic tale of  a young army captain in South Korea’s special forces named Yoo Si-jin (played by Song Joong-ki) and a comely woman doctor, Kang Mo-yeon (played by Song Hye-kyo).  Yoo is assigned to a peacekeeping mission to a fictional country named Uruk. Dr. Kang is the leader of a medical team on a humanitarian mission. The story focuses on the couple as they cope with the mission’s challenges and fall in love with each other.

The hugely successful drama has moved from the entertainment into the political realm. China’s Ministry of Public Security is warning Chinese viewers against watching too much of Descendants, while Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha is urging Thais to watch it. Beijing worries that obsessive viewing of the series will stir up social ills, while the Thai PM loves the show’s stress on patriotism and sacrifice for one’s country.

Some scenes in the Chinese version, including one showing a fight between South Korean and North Koreans soldiers, were reportedly deleted to please Chinese censors. The drama, which is nearing a climax, is also proving immensely popular with rank-and-file Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers.

The drama’s final episode airs on April 14.

Related stories: Korea’s ‘Descendants of the Sun’ TV series rakes in Chinese, Japanese cash; China altered scenes in Korean TV drama ‘Descendants of the Sun’; Korea’s special forces spotlighted in China amid ‘Descendants of the Sun’ drama fever; Hit S. Korean TV series irks China, pleases Thailand

Video: ‘Descendants of the Sun’ actor Song JoongKi on KBS 9 News; Descendants of the Sun: end of Song JoongKi?

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