Exploring the Musical Differences Between North and South Korea

Music is powerful in bridging gaps, transcending boundaries, and unifying different communities. And yet, despite the close relationship between North and South Korea, the two cultures’ music still reflects distinct differences. In this article, we’ll explore how the past and current political climate affect music in both countries – and how it continues to unite them.

Differences between North and South Korea Music

When it comes to music, North and South Korea have a lot of similarities. Both countries have a rich history of traditional music and have developed their own unique styles of popular music. However, there are also some significant differences between the two countries’ music scenes.

One of the biggest differences is that North Korea has largely been isolated from the rest of the world, which has had an impact on the development of its music. North Korea’s music is still heavily influenced by traditional Korean folk music and Soviet and Chinese music. In contrast, South Korea has been much more open to outside influences, and its famous music scene has been heavily influenced by Western styles such as rock, pop, and hip-hop.

Another difference between North and South Korean music is the level of government control. In North Korea, the government tightly controls all aspects of the music industry, including what kind of music can be played and who can perform it. In South Korea, there is much more freedom when it comes to music, and musicians are able to experiment with different styles without fear of censorship.

Overall, North Korea’s music scene is still very traditional and secluded, while South Korea’s music scene is much more diverse and open to outside influences.

Popular Genres in North Korea

In North Korea, the most popular genres of music are patriotic songs, revolutionary operas, and folk music. Patriotic songs celebrate the political leadership and socialist ideology, while revolutionary operas recount stories of struggle and victory against capitalism and imperialism. Folk music is typically about daily life, love, loss, and work. 

Traditional North Korean music has been fused with modern instruments and genres in recent years. There are elements of K-pop, rap, EDM, and other Western marks embedded within the sound.

Popular Genres in South Korea

Despite their shared heritage and close geographical proximity, the music scenes in North and South Korea could hardly be more different. In the north, the government maintains strict control over all aspects of the music industry, from what gets played on the radio to which artists are allowed to perform publicly. In the south, there is a vibrant and diverse music scene with a range of popular genres that cater to all kinds of audiences.

One of the most popular genres in South Korea is K-pop, a catchy and often highly-produced style of pop music that has taken the world by storm in recent years. K-pop groups like BTS and BLACKPINK have achieved massive global success, amassing millions of fans around the world with their K-pop songs. Some famous sad kpop songs had made it to the top charts on billboards. But K-pop is just one slice of the musical pie in South Korea – other popular genres include hip-hop, R&B, rock, and indie.

No matter your taste in music, you’re sure to find something to enjoy in South Korea’s rich and varied musical landscape. So if you’re ever in Seoul, be sure to check out some of the live music venues – you might discover your new favorite band!

Musical Instruments Used in Both Countries

Though both North and South Korea have a rich musical heritage, the musical instruments used in each country are quite different. In North Korea, the most popular instrument is the accordion, while in South Korea, the gayageum (a 12-string zither) is more commonly played. Other instruments used in both countries include the daegeum (a bamboo flute), the haegeum (a two-string fiddle), and the Piri (an oboe-like instrument).

Though traditional Korean music is very different from Western music, there are some similarities between the two genres. Both use a pentatonic scale, for example. And both North and South Korea have developed their own unique takes on traditional Korean music.


Although North and South Korea have very different histories, it’s clear that those shared roots have profoundly influenced the music of both countries. We hope this exploration into the musical differences between North and South Korea has given you a better understanding of how each country is unique and how their sounds are inextricably linked. Here’s to celebrating these two countries’ remarkable musical cultures!

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Joanna Fletcher
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