North Korea: 12 years of forced labor for watching K-dramas

Two sixteen-year-old adolescents face a daunting sentence: 12 years of forced labor each. Their offense? Caught red-handed indulging in the guilty pleasure of secretly watching K-dramas!

Since 2020, the regime has launched an aggressive campaign against what it terms "reactionary culture," encompassing foreign-made movies or music, as well as specific Western customs like hair dyeing and wearing capri pants.

In the trial video apparently conducted in 2022 and aired by the BBC, we witness the sight of two teenagers, clad in gray coats and shackled, being judged in a public hearing held in an amphitheater filled with a thousand students, all masked—a clear indication that the recording took place during the pandemic.

A narrator voices: "Lee and Moon, caught viewing and distributing movies, TV series, and 20 music videos from the puppet state in the South, received identical sentences of 12 years of forced labor." The narrative continues: "The insidious grip of corrupt and decadent culture has ensnared the youth, rendering the next generation hapless victims of reactionary influence. Despite being just 16 years old and at the threshold of their lives, they succumbed to the allure of foreign culture and, heedless of consequences, forfeited their own futures."

"Considering the severity of the sentence, it seems to serve as a cautionary message to North Koreans. If true, it underscores the prevalence of South Korean culture within North Korean society," explains Choi Kyong-hui, president of SAND and a political science Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo, who defected from North Korea in 2001.

Reports indicate that the families of the two children were expelled from Pyongyang. Recently, North Korea has intensified sanctions for offenses related to South Korean content. In 2020, the North Korean government implemented the "Anti-Reactionary Thought Law," imposing penalties of up to 15 years for individuals caught consuming South Korean media.

"I suspect this video was edited around 2022...(ellipsis). What's truly embarrassing for (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un is the shift in mindset among the youth of Generation Y and Z. It seems he's attempting to recondition them to embrace the North Korean lifestyle," he elaborated.

The two teenagers were convicted of viewing and distributing movies, videos, and clips, including K-pop and K-dramas, over a three-month period.

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