In most countries, watching a bootlegged copy of a movie or television show will get a stern warning or a fine. In North Korea, bootlegging can cost you your life.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a man in North Korea was sentenced to death as a result of selling a bootleg copy of Squid Game to a high school student.
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RFA offers still more troubling details — including the fact that the death sentence involves execution by firing squad.
The man who has been given extreme punishment by the North Korean government acquired a copy from a smuggler in China. He managed to get the copy into his homeland, but surely did not think about the consequences.
About ‘Squid Game’
Squid Games is a recent Netflix presentation produced in South Korea. The survival game is about contestants who are in dire need of money agreeing to participate in a series of games to win a handsome cash prize. What they imagined to be simply children’s games are deadly and have sinister turns. Squid Game soon became a superhit series across the globe.
Squid Game’s success and the fact that it covers societal issues common in North Korea have not gone down well with the authorities.
Guilty by association
A law-enforcement source in North Korea’s North Hamgyong Province told RFA: “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. The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them.”
It’s the first time the North Korean government has punished minors under its Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture Law, which penalizes the distribution, watching, or keeping of media from capitalist countries like South Korea and the U.S.
“The government is taking this incident very seriously, saying that the students’ education was being neglected,” said the RFA source.
The North Korean government not only set an extreme precedent by punishing the man who imported the content, but they also came down heavily on anyone even remotely associated with the incident.
The student who purchased the hard drive was given a life sentence. The six other students who watched it were not spared and each was given five years imprisonment. If the interrogation of the detained students reveals that more of their classmates were involved, then they may meet the same fate.
Even the high school administrators and teachers were fired for negligence. They may be sent to work in mines or exiled to rural regions, according to RFA.
RFA also cites rumors that one student caught watching Squid Game was able to avoid punishment because their parents paid a $3,000 bribe to the authorities.
The Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture Law
Imagine being in a constant state of lockdown with no Internet, no social media, and only a few state-controlled television channels designed to tell you what the country’s leaders want you to hear — this is life in North Korea.
And now its leader Kim Jong-Un has clamped down further, introducing a sweeping new law against what the regime describes as “reactionary thought.”
Anyone caught with large amounts of media from South Korea, the United States or Japan now faces the death penalty. Those caught watching face prison camp for 15 years. And it’s not just about what people watch.
The Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture Law states that if a worker is caught, the head of the factory can be punished, and if a child is problematic, parents can also be punished.
The system of mutual monitoring encouraged by the North Korean regime is aggressively reflected in the law. It intends to “shatter” any dreams or fascination the younger generation may have about South Korea or the capitalist West in general.