South Korean media, Chosun Ilbo, claimed that North Korea has executed three high-school students for watching and mass distributing South Korean dramas.
Alleged public executions
According to Chosun Ilbo, the executions were held in early October 2022. The punishment was supposedly based on the Reactionary Ideology and Culture Rejection Law which criminalises the act of watching South Korean entertainment content or bringing it into the country, with the maximum penalty being death.
The media outlet attributed its report to multiple North Korean sources which claimed that the three male students watched several South Korean and American dramas in a high school located in Hyesan, Yanggang province.
They were caught passing on these dramas to their friends. According to the North Korean source cited by Chosun Ilbo, the central government usually does not execute minors who commit serious crimes until they become adults, but this case was an exception.
South Korean content is supposedly rather popular among North Koreans, despite its illegality.
According to Seoul-based broadcaster Unification Media Group and partner, 96 per cent of respondents in North Korea admitted to watching foreign-produced entertainment content, such as acclaimed South Korean series “Squid Game” and “Crash Landing on You”, The Korea Times reported.
Varying report by other media
Radio Free Asia (RFA), a U.S. government-funded news service, has reported the incident as well, but with added details.
The RFA Korean service reported that the three high school students were executed by the firing squad.
The first two were executed allegedly due to their participation in the distribution and watching of South Korean movies, while the last student was executed for supposedly murdering his stepmother. The information came from two witnesses who told RFA.
One of the Hyesan sources also told RFA that two of the students were caught attempting to sell thumb drives containing contraband media. North Korean officials have dispatched spies to infiltrate the local marketplace and report sellers to the police force, the source further claimed.
Repeated instances of unverified information on DPRK
Little is known about the domestic affairs of the hermit kingdom, which is governed by an authoritarian political system and possesses substantive nuclear arsenal. Given the lack of credible sources from the country, the public, therefore, takes great interest in whatever news that appears to find its way out.
And like most news about what happens within North Korea, the veracity of the executions could not established.
It’s important to note also that Chosun Ilbo, which is also the oldest daily newspaper in the country, is known to be politically motivated in their coverage of North Korean affairs, adding considerable doubt to their claim.
Previously, several reports have emerged from different media outlets on domestic affairs within the pariah state.
For instance, in 2021, there were reports that approximately 10,000 North Korean students turned themselves in to the authorities after secretly watching South Korean movies and dramas.
In the same year, RFA has also reported that a man would be executed for smuggling a copy of “Squid Game” into the state.
There were also rumours in April 2020 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was dead, after his absence at an important commemorative event of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. This information has since proven to be false.
Another wildly ridiculous story that many news outlets thought was real was the speculation that Kim Jong Un had his uncle eaten by 120 wild dogs, even though the story first appeared in a satirical post on a Chinese social media network.
Top image via Getty Images/Cancan Chu & Zhang Peng