The hit South Korean Netflix show “Squid Game” illustrates the odd dichotomy of barbarity and mercy that humanity embraces when lives and fortunes are on the line.
But in North Korea, brutality is not limited to fictional shows on streaming services — it is a part of life that is all too real.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Nov. 23, a North Korean man recently was sentenced to death by firing squad for the ghastly offense of having a copy of “Squid Game” saved on his flash drive and selling copies.
At least one student reportedly bought a flash drive. The man was caught after seven high school students gained access to the file.
“This all started last week when a high school student secretly bought a USB flash drive containing the South Korean drama Squid Game and watched it with one of his best friends in class,” a North Korean source told RFA.
“The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them. They were caught by the censors in 109 Sangmu, who had received a tipoff,” the source continued, referring to one of the North Korean government’s censorship strike forces.
The seven students, as well as the distributor who recently was sentenced to death, are being prosecuted under a law banning all media from western or capitalist countries.
The student who purchased a “Squid Game” flash drive got a life sentence, while the six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years of hard labor, Radio Free Asia reported, adding that teachers and administrators at the school have been fired and face banishment to work in remote mines.
“Residents are engulfed by anxiety, as the seven (students) will be mercilessly interrogated until the authorities can find out how the drama was smuggled in with the border closed due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the North Korean source told Radio Free Asia.
However, the reality on the ground might be far different. A second source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told RFA that “the residents are all trembling in fear because they will be mercilessly punished for buying or selling memory storage devices, no matter how small.
“But regardless of how strict the government’s crackdown seems to be, rumors are circulating that among the seven arrested students, one with rich parents was able to avoid punishment because they bribed the authorities with U.S. $3,000.
“Residents are complaining that the world is unfair because if parents have money and power, even their children who are sentenced to death can be released.”
This extreme response is ironic considering that the North Korean government praised “Squid Game” for exposing the allegedly “beastly” nature of South Korean capitalism:
— South east asian socialist (@the_real_Kirov) November 25, 2021
However, it is no surprise that a murderous, authoritarian regime is being inconsistent. When rule is by man, our wickedness and viciousness will lead to decisions such as this.
My heart goes out to the people who have to suffer in North Korea on a daily basis. Certainly, some of them have been brainwashed, but many are normal people simply struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis.
I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done, but I am truly thankful to live in a country where government cannot suppress our speech.
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