Three university students in Haeju, South Hwanghae Province, were tried in a public court late last month for watching and distributing South Korean videos.

According to a Daily NK source in South Hwanghae Province on Wednesday, North Korean authorities publicly tried the three individuals before a crowd gathered in the yard of the Haeju Farm Machine Factory on June 30. They were accused of watching and distributing so-called “capitalist recorded material (videos)” consisting of South Korean movies and music videos.

The crowd included cadres from major government institutions, students from middle schools and universities, as well as local residents.

The three defendants were students in their 20s who attend the Haeju University of Education. They were shackled during the trial, where they were charged with regularly gathering together to watch South Korean films and music videos and sharing them with other students.

North Korean authorities reportedly sat the parents of the students, the party secretaries of the companies where their parents worked, and even the heads of those companies in the front row. Calling out the names of the students, the names of their parents, and even the details of the families, the court officials slammed all involved, telling them they “will no longer be able to walk around town with their heads held high.”

Popular media players for watching foreign content in North Korea (left, notel; right, mp4 player
Popular media players for watching foreign content in North Korea (to the left, a “notel”; to the right, an mp4 player). Image: Daily NK

According to what Daily NK knows so far, when the three students learned that another student had reported them to the authorities, they found and threatened the informant and tried to flee. However, they were arrested based on a tip from the head of their inminban (people’s unit), who was keeping an eye on them.

The Ministry of State Security found several USBs with South Korean films, music broadcasts, and music videos in the students’ homes and lockers. However, the students refused to confess to where the content had come from to the very end, further outraging the ministry’s agents.

Following the incident, North Korean authorities declared it would immediately send inspection teams to the Haeju University of Education and other universities in the city to root out “anti-socialist and non-socialist” behavior among students.

The authorities stressed in particular that the struggle against “anti-socialist and non-socialist” behavior must be regarded as a political and class struggle, and that the entire nation should “confess [to illegal activities], report on each other, and monitor each other” to prevent “the infiltration of the enemy’s reactionary culture.”

The source said the authorities told law enforcement agencies and the “unified command” tasked with inspections and crackdowns regarding “non-socialist and anti-socialist behavior” that they should demonstrate leadership and creativity to uncover problematic behavior and “mercilessly” punish it. They also warned offenders that they faced “expulsion from the party, losing their jobs, and even exile.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to