3 executed for watching S. Korean shows

Three North Koreans from Yanggang Province
have reportedly been executed for watching South Korean TV dramas with their
mobile phones. The execution, although carried out in private, is seen as being
part of Pyongyang’s drive to stamp out illegal viewing of outside content by
setting an example. 

“Last month, three residents were shot to
death for watching South Korean dramas using memory cards,” the source from
Yanggang Province told Daily NK on September 9th. “In the past, we had seen
cadre members who had watched dramas or vendors who made CDs being executed,
but now that seems to include residents (who watch dramas) as well, making
everyone very nervous.”
 

This information was crosschecked with
 an additional source in the same province.
 

The three executed were exposed during
beefed up inspections. State Security Department agents arrested them and handed them over to Ministry of People’s Security personnel after interrogation. The execution was not public and instead
carried out somewhere in Kimjongsuk County, according to the source.
 

“Even though it wasn’t public, a lot of
people are aware of the news, so they’re taking extra precautions,” she
explained, adding that because word of mouth quickly spreads the news many will
likely take extra precautions regarding their viewing habits of media from
below the border.
 

Those executed were caught in the act of
watching the dramas from memory cards on Bluetooth-enabled smartphones. They
were killed to send a message to others about what happens when people ‘get
caught up in corrupt and depraved ideologies and go against the Party to watch
such video content’, the source explained, citing a cadre with close knowledge
of security agency matters.
 

“The people who were executed were from
Kanggu, Keomsanri, and Yonbongdong, and they had obtained the memory cards (packed with South Korean shows) from Chinese traders while they were working
as smugglers,” the source said. “With border security being at much higher
levels, they had temporarily halted their smuggling operations; the problem
stemmed from them filling the extra time on their hands by watching South
Korean dramas.”
 

The number of people who own smartphones
that can play back video is limited in the North, and this enables security
agents to keep closer tabs on those who do, said the source. Around two to
three people out of ten own a smartphone, so it is easy for security and safety
agents to monitor them and wiretap their devices if they need, she asserted.
 

“The three thought if they were on the move
constantly enough while watching the dramas, they wouldn’t get caught,” the
source said. “But having figured out that people were watching with memory
cards, security agents narrowed down their surveillance to those who have
Bluetooth phones and were able to apprehend them.”
 

Within one inminban (people’s unit), there
are up to two to three or even five Bluetooth-enabled phones, and they are
mostly used by Party cadres and smugglers. Those who have Bluetooth access need
to sign up and pay roughly 500,000 KPW a month for the service, so, citing
costs, the source said that most people use flip phones or sliders.
 

At a mobile communications vendor in
Yanggang Province, a Bluetooth-enabled phone fetches around 2,500 to 3,000 RMB
(4 mil. KPW), while simpler flip phones or sliders are priced anywhere between
800 to 1,200 RMB (1 mil. to 1.6 mil. KPW).

*The content of this article was broadcast
to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.