As North Korean authorities continue to crackdown on the consumption and distribution of foreign content in the country, Daily NK recently learned that six students in Nampo were arrested and given prison sentences for secretly watching South Korean videos.

A source informed Daily NK on May 14 that the North Korean authorities held a public trial at Kapmun First High School’s youth center, which is in the Waudo District of Nampo. The defendants were two third-year high school boys and four second-year high school girls who were caught watching South Korean dramas and movies.

According to the source, the trial began with the prosecutor dragging the six students out to the podium with shackles on their hands. The students’ parents stood beside them, while students from the school and their parents watched the proceedings of the trial.

The prosecutor told the audience that the students had watched more than 120 South Korean dramas and movies between last year and March of this year. He emphasized that the students had not only watched the South Korean videos themselves, but also disseminated them among their classmates. He further noted that they had refused to turn themselves in, so their transgression would have to be dealt with as a serious crime.

The court ultimately sentenced the students to five years at a re-education camp.

Daily NK obtained a copy of North Korea’s “anti-reactionary thought law” earlier this year. Article 27 of the law says that anyone “bringing in or distributing large amounts of South Korean movies, videos, published works or books” will face either a “life sentence of re-education through labor” or “execution.”

Lecture materials calling on people to “smash anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior” published in July 2019. / Image: Daily NK

The fact that the students are minors appears to be the reason they received a slightly milder punishment than the one listed in Article 27.

However, a cadre from Nampo’s Ministry of Social Security stayed behind after the trial to make a statement to the students and their parents who were gathered in the audience.

“The era of trying 16-year-olds as youths has ended,” he reportedly yelled out. “From now on, if you watch video materials from South Korea, you will not be forgiven, regardless of who you are, your gender, or how old you are.”

In addition to video materials, North Koreans may face punishment for viewing South Korean books, photos, or printed materials. Those caught speaking in the South Korean dialect can receive a sentence of up to two years of re-education. The North Korean authorities appear to be doing all they can to block the spread of South Korean pop culture in the country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made this statement at the Sixth Conference of Cell Secretaries early last month: “We must view the problem of youth culture as a matter of the Party and the revolution and as a matter of life and death for the country and its people…We can no longer turn a blind eye to this issue, and should spare no effort [to solve it.]”  

Kim’s speech may be one reason why North Korean public security institutions have strengthened their response to the spread of outside information. 

“You could see how harshly the six students had been interrogated just by looking at them when they were dragged out at the trial,” the source told Daily NK. “Their faces were nothing but skin and bones and they couldn’t even hold their bodies upright.”

*Translated by S & J

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