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North Korean man to be executed for smuggling ‘Squid Game’



A North Korean man has been sentenced to death by firing squad after smuggling a digital copy of the Netflix hit TV show Squid Game, it has been reported.

The man, a student, is believed to have brought the series back on a hidden USB stick from China.

North Korean authorities reportedly caught him after receiving a tip-off from an unidentified source that he was selling copies to several people including fellow students.

He has since been sentenced to death by firing squad, Radio Free Asia has reported.

Another student who bought a drive has reportedly been handed a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years hard labour.


Teachers and school administrators have also been fired and risk being sent to work in coal mines or exiled to rural parts of the country, sources told RFA.

It is believed that the arrests took place in the country’s North Hamgyong province over the last week.

The recent arrests of the seven students mark the first time the North Korean government has applied the law on the “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture” in a case involving minors, according to a source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province.

Under the recently-passed law, any person found watching, keeping, or distributing media from capitalist countries, particularly from South Korea and the U.S, may be sentenced to death.


“Residents are engulfed by anxiety, as the seven will be mercilessly interrogated until the authorities can find out how the drama was smuggled in with the border closed due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the source told RFA.

It was reported last week that copies of Squid Game are being spread across North Korea after being smuggled over the border on memory sticks and other electrical devices.

“Squid Game has been able to enter the country on memory storage devices such as USB flash drives and SD cards, which are smuggled in by ship, and then make their way inland,” a resident of the city of Pyongsong told RFA.

The resident felt that the show is particularly relevant for state officials who do their jobs for money but they also face the risk of death.


“They think the show’s plot kind of parallels their own reality, where they know they could be executed at any time if the government decides to make an example out of them for making too much money, but they all continue to make as much money as possible,” said the source.

“It not only resonates with the rich people, but also with Pyongyang’s youth, because they are drawn to the unusually violent scenes. Also, one of the characters is a North Korean escapee and they can relate to her.”

People in North Korea secretly watch the show under blankets at night, using portable media players, the source added.

Smugglers have seen the popularity for Squid Games who also risk their lives to get the series into North Korea, and also relate to it, said a second RFA source.


The secretive state strictly censors its media with Western series and films banned under leader Kim Jong-un.

Rules are rigidly enforced in the repressed society and people breaking them could face the death penalty.

In October, North Korea’s state media slammed Squid Game, saying it is an example of the “beastly” nature of “South Korean capitalist society where mankind is annihilated by extreme competition”.

Security on the border with China has become more strict since the Covid outbreak with it typically having been not so difficult to cross. Now there is a kilometre long “kill zone” at the border along with land miles which smugglers have to negotiate.



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