North Korean faces execution for smuggling Squid Game: Report

North Korea appears to have come down hard on people who distribute or watch Netflix’s hit show ‘Squid Game.’

A report by Radio Free Asia cited unnamed sources inside North Korea as saying a man who smuggled and sold the dystopian drama had been sentenced to death by firing squad and a high schooler who bought a USB drive containing the show was sentenced to life in prison.

Another six high schoolers who watched the show were said to be sentenced to five years of hard labor, RFA reported. Their supervisors were also said to be punished, with teachers and school administrators fired, possibly to be banished to work in remote mines, RFA said.

RFA is a US government-funded nonprofit news service that serves audiences in Asia. It says its aim is to “provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press.”

The South Korean television series ‘Squid Game’ tells the story of 456 debt-laden people competing for 45.6 billion won, or $38.3 million, of prize money in brutal survival games.

Read also: Man loses $28,000 life savings after investing in ‘Squid Game’ crypto token

A law-enforcement source in North Korea’s North Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean service: “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. The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them.” The students were caught by government censors after a tip-off, the source told RFA.

It’s the first time the North Korean government has punished minors under a law that penalizes the distribution, watching, or keeping of media from capitalist countries like South Korea and the US, RFA said.

“The government is taking this incident very seriously, saying that the students’ education was being neglected,” RFA’s source said.

A source told the outlet that one of the students got off the hook because they had rich parents who paid a $3,000 bribe.

Last month, a state-run North Korean propaganda website said the Netflix drama highlighted how South Korea was a place where “corruption and immoral scoundrels are commonplace.” One of the show’s characters was a North Korean defector whose story highlighted her arduous escape from the country.

Despite the threat of retribution, smuggled, illegal copies of ‘Squid Game’ have been making their way into North Korea.

A previous article from Radio Free Asia noted that North Koreans found the financial struggles of the show’s characters “relatable.”

Netflix has set the massive hit had the most first-month viewership of any of its originals.

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