Published 2021-11-25
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Death Penalty For Watching Squid Game! How North Korea Deals With 'Crime'.

The harsh regime in North Korea is something that most people are aware of. Yet despite that, every now and then, some news emerges from the closed-off country that still manages to shock people and remind them just how difficult life must be for the people there. Most recently news had emerged from the country that a man has been sentenced to death for smuggling in a copy of the hit South Korean series Squid Game into the country. Who else is facing trouble for his act? What have been the other reasons that people in the country received similar sentences? And are even those close to the Supreme Leader in danger? Read on to find out about the reasons someone could lose their lives in one of the most mysterious nations in the world.

Squid Game Cost Him His Life

Recently news appeared on the internet that a North Korean man has been arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad after smuggling and selling copies of the hit Netflix show Squid Game. The man allegedly smuggled the series from China on a USB stick and sold it to a student in the hermit nation, who then shared it with his friends. 109 Sangmu, which is the government’s surveillance service alerted after an unidentified source tipped them off, and they caught the man after high school students were caught watching the show. But he wouldn’t be the only one facing consequences for his actions. According to Radio Free Asia, the student who brought the copy was given a life sentence, and his friends who watched it have been given five years of hard labor. But there is more. The headteacher of the school, the student’s teachers, and the school administrators are also being held responsible and have since been fired and banished to work in remote mines. And now this had caused mass anxiety amongst other teachers in the country, with RFA reporting that they are worried they could meet the same fate. But if you think this is a harsh punishment for watching a show then read on to find out other reasons people were sentenced to death in the country.

Control Of The Media

The North Korean government closely monitors what kind of media the country’s citizens are able to consume. The television channels in the country only show the material the government wants people to see. For the most part, outside media is prohibited and one defector Kim Geum-hyok, in an interview with the BBC revealed that they are allowed to watch some Russian music performances but only the old, war songs from the communist era, and there are also some movies about China’s Communist Revolution had been broadcast. The man had experienced the realities of controlled media when at the age of 16 he was arrested after giving his friend some DVDs of South Korean pop music that his father had smuggled from China. Though Geum-hyok was one of the lucky ones as he came from an elite family and his father was able to bribe the guards to set him free. Though not everyone is that lucky.


Death Because Of Popular Media

In 2020 the country passed a new “anti-reactionary thought” law that would control the influence of the outside world on the North Korean people. As per the law, anyone caught with large amounts of media from South Korea, the United States, or Japan now faces the death penalty. Earlier this year, Daily NK reported that a man was publically executed for selling USBs and CDs that contained South Korean movies, music videos, and dramas. 500 people watched the execution, including his close family who was then transported to a political prisoner camp. According to the information sites source, people can receive a seven-year sentence for not reporting someone who sells or watches outside media. But people could be sentenced for much less than consuming foreign media and you can find out other reasons on the next page.

Execution Reasons In North Korea

It is difficult to fully document the reasons why someone was executed in North Korea due to the fact the country is closed. Chances are that there are executions that people aren’t even aware of as the bodies are never released to the public and buried in unmarked graves. Many executions had also been justified as espionage, corruption, or no reasons are given at all. Yet those who managed to get information out, are one of the ways that the outside world gets a chance to learn the reason why people had been executed in the country. Some had been sentenced to death for serious crimes such as rape, treason, defection attempts, embezzlement, or murder.

“Unusual” Reasons For Execution

However, there had been cases of people being publically executed for other things such as “stealing a cow” to even “stealing copper wires from state-owned power lines”. As per the recorded executions, there had been several women in the country’s history that have been executed for fortune-telling with the most recent one taking place in 2019, a person was also publically executed for conducting a shamanism ritual. A 49-year-old man was once publically executed for calling his family in South Korea. But under the new rule that Kim Jong-un implemented, people could now even be executed for using foreign slang, having different hairstyles that are not approved in the country, wearing clothes that had not been approved such as jeans, and consuming foreign media which we already mentioned. But could tourists also be in danger of death? Read on to find out.

COVID Killed In More Ways Than One?

When the global COVID pandemic first started, North Korea had acted swiftly and closed its borders. For the longest time reports from the closed-off country showed that they had zero cases of the virus. Rumors have even started spreading online that it was because anyone who was found with a positive test was executed. However, those were just rumors and are believed to have been a hoax. Though what has been confirmed that a government official in the country was executed in August 2020 for violating anti-virus rules. South Korean intelligence officials told lawmakers in the country that the man who has not been named brought in goods through customs in the city of Sinuiju on North Korea’s border with China, which given the country’s lockdown rules, has been a violation of coronavirus-related quarantine measures.

Even Tourists Aren’t Always Safe

While reading all this about North Korea makes some want to stay far away from the nation, tourism there is very popular. There, of course, are clear rules about what people can or can’t do and what they can photograph yet some disobey them and things get a little bit nasty. In the past, there had been cases of Christian missionaries who visited the country in order to spread their faith. One man was 75-year-old John Short, who in 2014 was arrested for distributing Bible tracts in order to convert North Koreans. He was detained for 13 days before being deported back to Australia. Another man who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, though only served two, was a U.S citizen Kenneth Bae. It was unclear exactly what happened that the man, who ran tour trips to the country, but he himself said he made a mistake of carrying a portable drive containing hostile, anti-North Korean material. Given that Bae was a devout Christian, many speculated the drive contained religious items. While these two men were lucky to have come out alive, one Ohio student wasn’t. In 2016, 22-year-old Otto Warmbier lapsed into a coma shortly after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was visiting the country as a tourist and was arrested, according to North Korean media, for trying to steal a poster bearing a propaganda slogan. After being transported back to the USA allegedly after the government paid a $2 million ransom, the young man died after having been left with extensive brain damage that left him in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” which his relatives suggested that he was physically abused by his captors. But are those to the Supreme Leader not even safe from being executed? Find out on the next page.

Execution Statistics

While it is worth noting that any statistics could be lower or higher than reported, given the nature of the country’s secrecy, in 2019 a South Korean-based research group, has released a report on these executions in an attempt to show the real numbers. In it, it was revealed that the most common infraction for which people were executed was a property crime. Of the 715 charges that they had documented, 238 involved theft or damage, while 115 were for violent crimes. Others included political crimes or the aforementioned consumption of South Korean media.

Not Even Those Close To Kim Are Safe

And if you thought that being close to Kim Jong-un or his family would keep you safe, then you would be wrong. According to a report by USA Today, since taking power in 2011, the supreme leader ordered the execution of at least 340 people. Those included other government or army officials who had either opposed him criticized him or had offended him in one way or another, or simply no reason was given. In 2013 there was a lot of talk about Kim Jong-un around the world as he ordered the execution of Jang Song Thaek, his uncle by marriage. The reason for it was “insurrection and other crimes” and along with him, he also killed Thaek’s sons and his sister, and her entire family for their connection to the man. Several months later in 2014 he also killed his aunt Kim Kyong-hui, wife of Thaek, for protesting her husband’s death. Kim’s half-brother was also removed from the picture by the supreme leader because he was seen as a threat.

Did you know that punishments for ‘crimes’ in North Korea were so severe? Let us know in the comments and if you enjoyed this article do not hesitate to share it with your friends and leave a Like on our Facebook page!
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