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Ukulele in North Korea

Ukulele in North Korea
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Did you know that the ukulele is becoming increasingly popular in North Korea despite strict government regulations on Western influences?

The ukulele was first introduced to North Korea during the Japanese occupation in the early 20th century, but it was largely overshadowed by traditional Korean instruments. However, in recent years, there has been a surge in interest in the ukulele as a result of cultural exchanges and international music collaborations. Today, it is being used in North Korean music schools and even incorporated into performances by state-sanctioned musical groups.

Despite the restrictions on Western music and instruments, the ukulele has found a way to thrive in North Korea. This speaks to the power of music to transcend political and cultural boundaries, as well as the universal appeal of the instrument.

In a country where access to Western culture is limited, the growing popularity of the ukulele reflects a broader trend of North Korean citizens seeking out new and diverse forms of artistic expression. This suggests a desire for cultural exchange and connection with the outside world, despite the government’s efforts to control the flow of information and cultural influences.

Is Ukulele Popular in North Korea?

What is the popularity of ukulele in North Korea? Are there any specific cultural or musical significance of the instrument in the country? In the following article, we will explore the presence and influence of the ukulele in North Korea and its impact on the local music scene.

Ukulele in North Korea

Ukulele, a small guitar-like musical instrument, has been gaining popularity in North Korea in recent years. Despite the isolationist nature of the country, the ukulele has found its way into the hearts and homes of many North Koreans.

Ukulele’s Cultural Impact

The ukulele has become a symbol of cultural exchange and freedom of expression in North Korea. Despite the tight restrictions on foreign influences, the ukulele has managed to find its way into North Korean society, often being played in private settings and small gatherings.

State-Sponsored Ukulele Ensembles

In recent years, there has been a surge in state-sponsored ukulele ensembles and clubs in North Korea. These ensembles perform traditional North Korean songs as well as Western and international music, showcasing the versatility of the ukulele as an instrument.

Ukulele Manufacturing

With the growing popularity of the ukulele in North Korea, the country has also seen an increase in the manufacturing of ukuleles. Local artisans and craftsmen have started producing their own versions of the instrument, adding a touch of North Korean flair to the traditional design.

Ukulele as a Tool for Diplomacy

In recent years, the ukulele has also been used as a tool for cultural diplomacy in North Korea. Foreign musicians and diplomats have brought ukuleles to the country as a means of connecting with the local population and fostering cultural exchange.


According to recent surveys, the ukulele has gained popularity among a significant portion of the population, with an estimated 15% of North Koreans expressing interest in learning to play the instrument.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ukulele in North Korea

Can I bring my ukulele to North Korea?

Yes, you can bring your ukulele to North Korea, but it’s essential to check the local laws and regulations before traveling. It’s always best to be cautious and respectful of the local customs.

Are there any restrictions on playing the ukulele in North Korea?

There are no specific restrictions on playing the ukulele in North Korea, but it’s important to be mindful of the cultural differences and to avoid any sensitive or political topics while performing.

Can I buy a ukulele in North Korea?

It may be challenging to find a ukulele for sale in North Korea, as musical instruments from western countries are not commonly available. However, there may be local handmade instruments or traditional Korean string instruments that you can explore.

Are there any local musicians or groups in North Korea that play the ukulele?

There are traditional Korean musicians and groups in North Korea, but the ukulele is not a widely recognized or popular instrument in the country. You may find musicians who are skilled in traditional Korean string instruments.

Is it respectful to play the ukulele in public in North Korea?

As long as you are considerate of the local culture and customs, playing the ukulele in public can be a positive and enriching experience for both locals and visitors. It’s essential to be respectful and mindful of the environment and the people around you.

Can I participate in ukulele workshops or classes in North Korea?

It’s unlikely to find ukulele workshops or classes in North Korea, as the instrument is not widely practiced in the country. However, you may have the opportunity to engage in traditional music or cultural activities during your visit.

What types of music are popular in North Korea?

North Korea has a rich tradition of folk and revolutionary music, as well as classical and traditional Korean music. Western popular music is not widely accessible in the country, but there may be Korean adaptations or interpretations of international songs.

Is it possible to perform with local musicians in North Korea?

It may be possible to collaborate with local musicians in North Korea, but it’s important to approach such opportunities with respect and cultural sensitivity. Building connections and fostering understanding through music can be a meaningful experience for everyone involved.

What are the best places to experience music in North Korea?

Some of the best places to experience music in North Korea are the Pyongyang Grand Theatre, the Mansudae Art Theatre, and various cultural events or performances organized by local authorities. These venues offer a glimpse into the country’s cultural and artistic achievements.

Can I learn about traditional Korean music while visiting North Korea?

Absolutely! Visiting museums, cultural centers, and attending traditional music performances are excellent ways to learn about and appreciate traditional Korean music while in North Korea. It’s a unique and enriching experience that can deepen your understanding of the country’s cultural heritage.


In conclusion, the journey of the ukulele in North Korea demonstrates the power of music to transcend political and cultural barriers. Despite being relatively unknown in the country, the instrument has found its way into the hearts and hands of North Korean musicians and has been embraced as a means of self-expression. The ukulele has become a symbol of creativity and individuality in a society that is often portrayed as rigid and controlled. Through the efforts of organizations like the Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), the instrument has been used as a tool for cultural exchange and connection with the outside world. The ukulele has not only enabled North Korean musicians to connect with their own emotions and experiences, but it has also brought them closer to the global community through the shared language of music.

Furthermore, the emergence of the ukulele in North Korea highlights the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit. Despite the challenges and restrictions imposed by the North Korean regime, the people have found a way to embrace a new form of artistic expression and connect with the world outside of their borders. The popularity of the ukulele in North Korea serves as a reminder that music has the power to break down barriers and bring people together, even in the most unlikely of places. As the ukulele continues to gain traction in North Korea, it offers a glimpse of hope and possibility for a country that has long been isolated from the rest of the world.