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Updated January 19th, 2024 at 17:30 IST

North Korean Teens Sentenced to 12 Years' Hard Labor for Watching South Korean Videos

North Korea has a history of imposing severe sentences on individuals caught consuming South Korean entertainment or adopting South Korean cultural influences.

Digital Desk
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un | Image:AP
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Disturbing video footage released by the South and North Development Institute (Sand), an organization working with North Korean defectors, has unveiled the harsh reality faced by two teenagers in Pyongyang. The North Korean authorities publicly sentenced the 16-year-olds to 12 years of hard labor for the apparent crime of watching South Korean films and music videos.

The video, according to a report from Reuters, captures a large public trial orchestrated by North Korean authorities. In the footage, the two students, clad in grey scrubs and handcuffed, face an amphitheater filled with approximately 1,000 students, all wearing face masks—suggesting the video was shot during the Covid pandemic.

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Here is what you need to know

North Korea has a history of imposing severe sentences on individuals caught consuming South Korean entertainment or adopting South Korean cultural influences. This latest incident showcases the application of the "anti-reactionary thought" law imposed in 2020.

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Choi Kyong-hui, president of Sand and a defector from North Korea, commented on the heavy punishment, stating, "Judging from the heavy punishment, it seems that this is to be shown to people across North Korea to warn them. If so, it appears this lifestyle of South Korean culture is prevalent in North Korean society."

According to the video, the students were accused of watching and spreading South Korean movies, music, and music videos. The narrator, presumably representing North Korean authorities, claimed, "They were seduced by foreign culture ... and ended up ruining their lives." The footage also showed young girls being handcuffed and women in Pyongyang wearing South Korean fashion and hairstyles.

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North Korea, a reclusive nation, and South Korea, a prosperous democracy, remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict concluded in a truce, not a peace treaty. The two countries are separated by a heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ). The incident sheds light on the oppressive measures taken by North Korean authorities to curb the influence of outside cultures within their borders.

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Published January 19th, 2024 at 17:30 IST

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