Eight young people in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province, were recently put on public trial for imitating characters in South Korean TV programs or films and telling others about the dramas or films they had seen.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday that the eight were arrested by the Ministry of State Security and publicly tried when locals reported them to the authorities for watching South Korean films, TV programs and music videos.

According to the source, ever since North Korea enacted a law to eradicate “reactionary thought and culture” in December, the authorities have been encouraging residents through their inminban (people’s units) to actively report one another if they discover infractions.

Members of one inminban tipped off the Ministry of State Security about the young people who watched the South Korean videos. After their arrest, they were publicly tried in the courtyard of a middle school in the county seat on Aug. 21. 

“Seven legal officers from the provincial unified command [on non-socialist and anti-socialist behavior] convened the public trial, sitting on classroom chairs brought outside and neatly placed on a dais,” he said. “At the trial, they placed the eight youths from Musan in front of them and called them a ‘gang’ that imitated characters in South Korean videos and conveyed or spread the content of those videos to locals.”

The trial determined that the eight youth had repeatedly seen the South Korean film “The Spy Gone North” and TV program “Crash Landing on You,” and that they searched out and saw all other films and TV programs in which the actors and actresses of those two movies appeared. This apparently made their crime a bigger deal. 

Musan County, North Hamgyong Province residence
Musan County, North Hamgyong Province. / Image: Daily NK

“In mentioning their crimes, no mention at all was made of the content of the videos they watched,” said the source. “[The officers of the court] said that South Korean videos scripted of non-existent falsehoods, manipulations and fabrications that harm the dignity of the Republic are threatening our ideological position.

“The party and legal institutions believe the continuous discovery of such acts — despite the state’s tougher legal controls on non-socialist and anti-socialist behavior — amounts to mockery and insults,” he continued, adding, “They sternly pronounced the youth ripe for life imprisonment.”

Accordingly, the authorities reportedly warned others at the trial that “nobody escapes the aware, keen eye of the locals, and that violators will eventually be caught,” noting that the eight youth had been arrested based on a tip from locals.

Because of much tougher punishments of non-socialist and anti-socialist behavior than before, Musan residents — and cadres in particular — are taking more care than ever to control the actions of their family members. In North Korea, an entire family can face ruin if even one member gets caught recklessly watching South Korean videos.

According to the source, Musan residents have complained that with so many local youth getting arrested for ideological issues, “every young person in the country will be arrested at this rate,” and that “everyone should avoid turning each other in [to the authorities] even if they’ve watched [South Korean movies and dramas].”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.