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27th Mar 2024

North Korea censors Alan Titchmarsh’s trousers in fight against capitalism

Ryan Price

Titchmarsh’s trousers proved too controversial for the repressive state’s national broadcaster.

There are few images as constant on British television screens as Alan Titchmarsh kneeling down in soil while wearing a tweed jacket of some sort.

Apparently, the 74-year-old gardener is always on the box over in North Korea too, so much so that he’s had an item of his quintessentially English clothing censored in a recent episode which aired.

Censorship in North Korea is pretty intense, especially when it comes to media. Consistently the country has ranked amongst the top five countries in the world with the least amount of media freedom.

(Via DPRK / News Network)

One thing that seems to have squeezed through the filter of ‘prohibited outside entertainment’ is the BBC’s Garden Secrets series, which features Titchmarsh dishing out tips and hacks for upgrading your garden space or planting some fruits and vegetables.

Repeat episodes of the programme are regularly broadcast on Korean Central Television (KCTV), and apparently the binge-watching people of North Korea can’t get enough of it.

On Monday, an episode from 2010 aired and featured Alan planting a fruit tree in a garden at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.

In typical Titchmarsh fashion, the West Yorkshire native is kneeling in a garden bed wearing a chequered shirt and blue jeans.

However, the North Korean broadcaster has blurred out Titchmarsh’s denims, which apparently reflects the regime’s ban on jeans that has existed since the 90’s.

While the wholesome programme itself qualifies for consumption in North Korea, the country has had a longstanding restriction on Western fashion and trends.

According to Peter Ward, a senior researcher at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, blue jeans have been banned in North Korea since at least the early 90’s.

Apparently the country’s former leader Kim Jong Il effectively told citizens that jeans are “absolutely verboten and people should not wear them under any circumstances.”

However, he said it’s unusual for North Korea to “censor foreigners on TV for wearing jeans” given that authorities have allowed tourists who have visited the country over the years to wear almost any Western fashion.

The Democratic Republic of North Korea views jeans as a “symbol of American imperialism” given their close association with the U.S.

Current leader Kim Jong-un, who loves a flared trouser, is reportedly repulsed by skinny jeans and T-shirts bearing Western logos which are popular with their more progressive neighbours in South Korea.

In 2022, Alan Titchmarsh became aware of his unusual popularity on the other side of the globe, and he seemed delighted by the news at the time.

Speaking to Daily Star, he said: “I never imagined that my programmes would reach North Korea, but hopefully the calming nature of British gardening will be well received there.”

It’s not clear how the BBC show arrived in North Korea, considering western programming is extremely rare.

While satellite dishes and access to the global internet are banned except for the very few trusted classes in Pyongyang, foreign media still makes it way into the country, often on memory cards smuggled over the Chinese border.

Owning or trading in foreign media is illegal and anyone found guilty could face imprisonment, forced labour or even death.

However, North Korean TV often pirates content from foreign broadcasters, blurring out onscreen logos to hide the original source. This tends to be a common case in relation to Premier League, Champions League, and International football.

I wonder if Kim Jong Un will be tuning in to Man City versus Arsenal this Sunday like the rest of us. He’s only human after all.

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