North Korea has reportedly publicly executed teens for distributing South Korean movies
As South Korean entertainment seeps into global culture, the government of North Korea is cracking down on it through violent means.
According to a recent report, two teenagers may have been publicly executed for allegedly distributing South Korean movies.
Washington, DC-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that three teenagers around the age of 16 to 17, were executed by firing squad. One teenager was killed for allegedly murdering his stepmother, while two were accused of “watching and distributing South Korean movies.”
Given North Korea’s extreme state secrecy, the reports have been hard to fully confirm, but multiple sources have mentioned the public executions.
The incident is reported to have occurred in October on a runway in front of residents of Hyesan, a city in the North Korean province of Ryanggang near China.
According to a 2021 The New York Times story, the city of 200,000 residents “is the main gateway for outside information, including South Korean entertainment stored on computer memory sticks and bootlegged across the border from China.”
It’s also a city where North Korean defectors pass through on their way to South Korea.
RFA notes that South Korean and Western movies, music, and TV shows have permeated the Hermit Kingdom through easy-to-conceal USB flash drives and SD cards.
Content is then “distributed from person to person,” prompting authorities to seize smartphones and hand out punishment sentences. A source told RFA that those caught with foreign media can be sent to a correctional labour camp with their parents for five years.
Although public executions are rare, they are not unheard of and are used as a deterrent as the government grows increasingly concerned with the influence it might have on North Korean youth. According to a human rights report, leader Kim Jong-un has referred to K-pop as a “vicious cancer.”
“It remains impossible to find out the true scale of public executions in the isolated totalitarian state,” states the New York Times. Despite this, the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) has been documenting years of human rights violations and killings under Kim Jong-un’s rule.
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“The families of those being executed were often forced to watch the execution,” states a TJWG report published last year, adding that in certain cases, neighbourhood-level group leaders have been informed of executions slated to take place in their designated areas and that it is the leaders’ responsibility to bring their groups to witness the event.
Daily Hive has reached out to TJWG for a comment and will update this story when it responds.