Video footage released by an organization that works with North Korean defectors shows North Korean authorities publicly sentencing two teenagers to 12 years’ hard labor for watching K-pop.
The footage, which shows the two 16-year-olds in Pyongyang convicted of watching South Korean movies and music videos, was released by the South and North Development (SAND) Institute.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage, which was first reported by the BBC.
Photo: AFP / KCNA via KNS
North Korea has for years imposed tough sentences on anyone caught enjoying South Korean entertainment or copying the way South Koreans speak in a war on outside influences since a sweeping new “anti-reactionary thought” law was imposed in 2020.
“Judging from the heavy punishment, it seems that this is to be shown to people across North Korea to warn them. If so, it appears this lifestyle of South Korean culture is prevalent in North Korean society,” said SAND president Choi Kyong-hui, who has a political science doctorate from Tokyo University and defected from North Korea in 2001.
“I think this video was edited around 2022... What is troublesome for [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un is that millennials and Gen Z young people have changed their way of thinking. I think he’s working on turning it back to the North Korean way,” Choi said.
The video, made by North Korean authorities, shows a large public trial in which the two students in gray scrubs are handcuffed, while being watched by about 1,000 students in an amphitheater. All the students, including the two 16-year-olds, are wearing face masks, suggesting the footage was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students were sentenced after being convicted of watching and spreading South Korean movies, music and music videos over three months, the video shows.
“They were seduced by foreign culture... and ended up ruining their lives,” the narrator states, as the video cut away to young girls being handcuffed and Pyongyang women wearing South Korean fashion and hairstyles.
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