North Korea sentences young woman to two decades in prison for distributing South Korean TV shows and movies

North Korea has sentenced a woman in her twenties to two decades in prison for distributing a large amount of “unclean” cultural material, Daily NK has learned.

Even as North Korea steps up sanctions for importing South Korean pop cultural items such as movies, TV shows and music, young North Koreans continue to enjoy and desire them. As a result, the authorities impose even harsher penalties.

According to a Daily NK source in South Pyongan province on Friday, the woman – identified by her surname Choe – was arrested by a strike force from the local branch of Unified Command 82 (the Unified Command on Non-Organizations). socialist and anti-socialist behavior) in Kaechon early last month for distributing a large number of USB drives and SD cards filled with South Korean movies, TV shows and other cultural artifacts.

The source said Choe was sentenced to 20 years after authorities imposed the additional charge of “promoting the consumption of foreign culture before the birthday of the late national founder Kim Il Sung on April 15” in addition to the existing charge of illegal sale and distributing non-state-approved recordings.

Authorities have subjected Choe to intense investigation since she was caught selling illegal recordings ahead of Kim Il Sung’s 110th birthday.

During the Unified Command 82 investigation, Choe allegedly confessed to illegally selling and distributing South Korean movies and TV shows — that is, “impure” content — for many years. In particular, she sold SD cards with South Korean movies or TV programs for 20 to 70 USD each, depending on the number of recordings they contained, and even watched illegal content with friends who met for holidays and birthdays.

North Korea passed a law to eradicate so-called “reactionary thought and culture” in December 2020.

According to explanatory material for the law obtained by the Daily NK last year, Section 27 of the law provides for penalties of five to 15 years of correctional labor against those caught watching, listening or possessing. “films, recordings, publications, books, songs, drawings”. or pictures of South Choson [South Korea]and life sentences of correctional labor or the death penalty for those who import and distribute this material.

A scene from South Pyongan Province taken in 2014 (Wikimedia Commons, Bjørn Christian Tørrissen)

The fact that North Korea sentenced Choe to a harsher sentence than that imposed by law suggests that the authorities intend to generate a climate of fear by demonstrating to people that even harsher penalties await anti-socialist behavior and non-socialist.

In this way, the North Korean authorities believe that people who illegally distribute or sell foreign cultural content are the reason why the country’s citizens are exposed to the capitalist culture that threatens the regime, and are stepping up the crackdown by enacting laws to punish such behavior.

With people openly distributing USB drives and SD cards full of South Korean pop cultural content like movies and TV shows despite the new law, authorities are demonstrating — through tough penalties — that they won’t neglect nor will they ever forgive behavior contrary to the regime.

According to the Daily NK source, Choe was promptly investigated and tried within 10 days of his arrest.

The source further reported that Choe was severely punished as her bust came amid authorities carrying out an intensive ideological training campaign aimed at young people. He said the case demonstrates that the government’s “war of extermination” against anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior is more than just words.

The source added that the government is rapidly cracking down on people who watch and distribute South Korean movies and TV series and he believes that people who were boldly selling or buying USB drives or SD cards with movies foreigners despite the intensification of inspections and repressions will now go into hiding. after the Choe case.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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James C. Tibbs