KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — A North Korean man has been sentenced to death by firing squad for smuggling and selling copies of Squid Game after authorities at the hermit kingdom caught seven secondary school students watching the global hit show.
The smuggler is said to have brought a copy of Squid Game from China and sold USB flash drives containing the series, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
Quoting sources, RFA reported that one student who bought a drive received a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years hard labor, and teachers and school administrators have been fired and face banishment to work in remote mines.
RFA reported last week that copies of the drama had arrived in the reclusive country despite the best efforts of authorities to keep out foreign media.
They began spreading among the people on flash drives and SD cards.
Sources said the show’s dystopian world — in which marginalised people are pitted against one another in traditional children’s games for huge cash prizes and losing players are put to death — resonates with North Koreans in risky occupations and insecure positions.
“This all started last week when a secondary school student secretly bought a USB flash drive containing the South Korean drama and watched it with one of his best friends in class,” a source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service.
“The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them.
“They were caught by the censors in 109 Sangmu, who had received a tipoff,” said the source, referring to the government strike force that specialises in catching illegal video watchers, known officially as Surveillance Bureau Group 109.
The arrest of the seven students marks the first time that the government is applying the newly passed law on the “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture,” in a case involving minors.
The law carries a maximum penalty of death for watching, keeping, or distributing media from capitalist countries, particularly from South Korea and the US.