North Korea is reportedly going to execute a man by firing squad for smuggling a copy of Netflix series Squid Game into the hermit kingdom, Radio Free Asia reported on Nov. 23.
RFA also reported that a high schooler who bought a USB drive containing the show was sentenced to life in prison.
The smuggler is said to have brought a copy of Squid Game into North Korea from China and sold USB flash drives containing the series.
Sources within North Korea claim his death will be carried out by firing squad.
Those who procured a copy are students.
Students in trouble
A student who bought a copy received a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years of hard labour, sources told RFA.
RFA reported a week before this incident that copies of the show were spreading in North Korea via flash drives and SD cards.
North Koreans are hooked on the show as they relate to the fictional premise of Squid Game, where participants who are deeply in debt play children's games, with those who do not win getting execute.
How students got caught
RFA reported in some detail how the seven students got caught:
“This all started last week when a high school student secretly bought a USB flash drive containing the South Korean drama Squid Game and watched it with one of his best friends in class,” a source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service Monday.
“The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them. They were caught by the censors in 109 Sangmu, who had received a tipoff,” said the source, referring to the government strike force that specialises in catching illegal video watchers, known officially as Surveillance Bureau Group 109.
The students' arrest is notable as it marks the first time the newly passed law on the “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture” is applied on minors, the source also revealed.
The law came into force in December 2020 and carries a maximum penalty of death for watching, keeping, or distributing media from capitalist countries, particularly from South Korea and the United States.
Those not involved also punished
The source also said lengthy investigations will be carried out by the authorities to get the seven students to reveal how the border was penetrated for a foreign cultural product to be distributed locally.
Punishments will not stop with the smuggler and students who viewed the video, however, as others with no connection to the incident will also be held responsible, the source also said.
Those remotely involved, such as the school principal, youth secretary, and homeroom teacher have been dismissed by the Central Committee, the source also alleged.
“They were also expelled from the party," the source said, adding that these adults who are punished will be banished to a life of hard labour in the rural areas.
Authorities try to catch others
In the aftermath of the students getting caught, authorities began scouring markets for memory storage devices and video CDs containing foreign media, a resident of the province told RFA.
However, another source claimed that one of the students managed to get away as one of them has rich parents who were able to bribe the authorities with US$3,000 to escape punishment.
A survey of 200 North Korean escapees living in South Korea, which was cited by the Washington Post in August 2019, revealed 90 per cent saying they consumed foreign media while living in North Korea.
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