North Korea has executed three high school students by a firing squad for watching and widely distributing South Korean drama shows among their friends in conflict with the country’s legal guidelines for harsh punishment for minors, according to reports.
Two teenagers were executed for watching and distributing South Korean movies, while the third person was executed for murdering his stepmother in a rare display of punishment in the Kim Jong-un regime, reported Radio Free Asia, citing two sources who witnessed it.
The teenagers met at a high school in Hyesan in Ryanggang province in North Korea which shares its border with China in early October where they watched several Korean and American drama shows, reported South Korean daily Chosun Ilba on Saturday.
The teenagers were brought in front of the public, sentenced to death and were immediately shot down by the authorities at an airfield in the city, according to a resident, the report added.
Authorities had caught the accused students passing the shows to their friends, effectively circulating the content which was banned by the Kim Jong-un regime with a harsh punishment.
“As the Reactionary Ideological and Cultural Act was enacted, he was executed despite being a high school student according to the central government’s order to sound the alarm by executing him on a trial basis,” a source aware of the execution toldChosun Ilba.
The sources told RFA that the alleged crimes committed by the teens — around 16 or 17 years-old — were equally evil. Residents in the area were forced to watch, the sources told the US-backed radio and news service in Korea.
One of the witnesses of the public execution said that the officials told them that “those who watch or distribute South Korean movies and dramas, and those who disrupt social order by murdering other people, will not be forgiven and will be sentenced to the maximum penalty–death”.
In early December 2020, North Korea rolled out the law governing ideological and cultural tools and banning foreign information and influence in a crackdown aimed at the rising popularity of Korean shows and music.
Under the anti-reactionary thoughts law, punishment of 15 years of prison camp was announced for those in possession of media or art from South Korea.
However, the strict regulations in the hermit kingdom had little impact with the globally-successful Netflix show Squid Game which many were able to smuggle over the border and share copies of, drawing parallels with life in North Korea.
South Korean shows are smuggled on flash drives and watched behind closed doors in order to escape fines, or worse, imprisonment. Defectors have recalled how North Koreans learned via these tapes and CDs that while they struggled with famine, South Koreans were looking to ditch food and go on diets to lose weight.