The South Korean survival show, Squid Game, might have found fans in almost all countries globally, but its entry is still prohibited in North Korea, the country closest to South Korea. Anyone who breaks this law must be ready to face severe punishment, as these students reportedly found out.
An American news media agency, Radio Free Asia, reported on November 23 that a group of high school students from North Korea were severely penalised. One was sentenced to death after being caught watching Squid Game.
This is the first time minors in North Korea were convicted under the new law, "Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture" for watching Squid Game
The report cited an insider from North Korea, who claimed that the students, who were seven in number, were caught by the authorities watching the hit show in secret. The Netflix show was allegedly provided to them via a smuggler, who brought Squid Game into North Korea from China in USB flash drives.
A source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province of North Korea told RFA’s Korean Service,
"Early last week, seven high school students from Chongjin City, North Hamgyong Province, were caught watching 'Squid Game.' They were caught by the 109th Joint Command of Staff's inspection.”
According to the source, a student who bought a drive was sentenced to life in prison, while six others who watched the show were sentenced to five years of hard labour. Teachers and school administrators were also fired and currently face being sent to remote mines or being deported.
The person who smuggled the prohibited show in USB drives faced a much more severe punishment-death. According to the source, the defendant was sentenced to death by firing squad.
The source said,
The residents who imported the USB sticks with the Korean drama were shot to death and the student who purchased the USD was sentenced to life in prison while the other students who watched with him were sentenced to five years of labor reformation.
Censors caught the group of students in 109 Sangmu, which is a government strike force specially trained in detecting illegal video watchers. They are officially known as Surveillance Bureau Group 109.
The arrest and subsequent sentencing of the seven students mark the first time North Korea’s newly formed law, “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture,” has been used in a case involving minors.
The law, which was passed last year, stipulates that watching, keeping, or distributing media from capitalist countries, particularly South Korea and the United States, carries a maximum penalty of death.
The latest incident has resulted in a wave of anxiety in the nation, with North Korean authorities investigating how Squid Game made it into North Korea amidst strict COVID regulations.
The source from North Korea went on to say,
“Residents are engulfed by anxiety, as the seven will be mercilessly interrogated until the authorities can find out how the drama was smuggled in with the border closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Authorities have already started scouring markets for memory storage devices and video CDs containing foreign media after the students were apprehended.
Several citizens of North Korea, according to the source, fear they might have to pay the price, as they expect to be mercilessly punished for buying or selling memory storage devices, regardless of relation to this case.
Incidentally, Squid Game prominently features a North Korean defector, Kang Sae Byeok, who escaped to South Korea for a better life.
This is not the first time Squid Game and other international media has made their way to North Korea. In spite of the strict regulations and the authorities' best efforts to keep foreign media out, copies of the violent drama arrived in the reclusive country last week, according to RFA. The show was propagated among interested parties via flash drives and SD cards.
The latest incident and the extremely violent retaliation by North Korea has once again brought international attention to the authoritarian nation’s harsh rules and drastic punishments.
Several netizens made an interesting comparison between North Korea to Squid Game, saying
north korea is like squid game, but without a cash prize at the end of the game... just jailtime and death penalty for watching kdramas... meanwhile in western, entitled people complain 'bout stupid things.
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Meanwhile, North Korea is not the only nation Squid Game has made its presence felt despite being banned. The dystopian survival show is also officially prohibited in China, although it counts several Chinese citizens among its many fans who have watched Squid Game through illegal streaming sites.