North Korea is continuing its horrific history of civil rights abuses against its citizens. In the latest instance, Variety’s Naman Ramachandran has reported that “a man who smuggled copies of smash hit South Korean Netflix series Squid Game into North Korea has been sentenced to death, after authorities caught high school students watching the show.”
According to Ramachandran, “U.S.-headquartered independent news agency Radio Free Asia reported, quoting sources, that the series was smuggled in from China on USB flash drives and that the smuggler faces death by firing squad.”
While the man who brought the forbidden television content into the country will be killed, those who watched the series also face serious punishment. RFA reported that one student who bought a USB copy of the show had been sentenced to life in prison. Six others who simply watched the series were sentenced to five years of hard labor. Teachers and school administrators who knew about the students’ infractions were either fired or even more alarmingly banished to remote areas of the country where they will now have to work in mines for the remainder of their lives.
“In December 2020, North Korea passed the ‘Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture’ Act, which prohibits the entry and dissemination of cultural material like films, plays, music and books in the country,” Ramachandran said. “The act is mainly aimed at preventing the spread of media from South Korea and the U.S., and those found distributing or consuming these are liable to be punished.”
The irony of banning Squid Game is that the series is primarily viewed as a critique of capitalism, which would align with North Korea’s rejection of Western culture.
Earlier this year, RFA reported that another Korean man was killed in a public execution for selling bootlegged hard drives and CDs of “forbidden” South Korean television and films.
In addition to the people already charged in the Squid Game case, Ramachandran reported that the local population is very anxious about even more individuals being accused of similar “crimes” in the future, especially after a North Korean propaganda site called Arirang Meari came out against the television series, saying it depicted the “sad reality of a beastly South Korean society.”