Chinese spy in 2009 hit series 'Lurk' becomes a heartthrob in North Korea

Four years after the series first came on air, North Korean audiences hail Communist spy who sacrificed his happiness for the party

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 12:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 3:07pm

An undercover Communist agent featured in the 2009 hit drama series Lurk has become an icon in North Korea – a surprising turn in a country where hero worship is usually reserved for the ruling family.

The television series – featuring a covert operative character named Yu Zecheng, who battles the Kuomintang in the 1940s and who sacrifices his happiness for the party – has been replayed several times by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in the reclusive state, it reported.

North Korean audiences, especially the ladies, often ask Chinese reporters if the actor who played Yu, Sun Honglei, has acted in any new dramas, CCTV quoted a Chinese reporter as saying.

CCTV occasionally used to show “red-themed” Chinese series and films in the former Soviet Union.

Consuming unsanctioned media from capitalist nations remains taboo in North Korea, an act that is met with severe punishment. In November last year, the country publicly executed around 80 people many of whom were caught after watching smuggled South Korean television shows, reports said.

Many Chinese microbloggers are surprised that North Koreans are now allowed to “worship” a foreign drama character, with many forwarding the news report to Cui Chenghao, a star microblogger who claimed to be a writer from North Korea.

Others have mixed feelings about the drama’s popularity in North Korea, which is often compared to 1960s China.

“The aesthetic values [of a drama] is defined by those who follow it,” wrote an editor of The Mirror, a Beijing based daily newspaper.

Lurk is one of the most watched and liked Chinese dramas in the past decade. The 30-episode drama saw record high rates of 14 per cent in Beijing when the last episode was played on Beijing Television.

But the audience noticed the last episode played by broadcasters in Beijing and Shanghai was slightly altered from the original one shown in other provinces in the previous weeks.

In the original episode, when Yu queried party officials about his missing wife after he was assigned to “lurk” in Taiwan, an official replied, “No. But it would not make any difference if we find her. You two can never be together.”

But in the version shown in Beijing and Shanghai, the officer was less harsh, saying in response to Yu: “Not yet, but we will let you know as soon as we find her. A comrade as outstanding as her has to be found.”

Video: Last episode of Chinese TV series 'Lurk'