N. Korea publicly executes two teenagers for distributing S. Korean movies

Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

North Korea has executed three teenagers by firing squad, two for watching and distributing South Korean movies, and one for killing his stepmother. The alleged crimes committed by the teens, estimated to be between 16 to 17, were equally evil, authorities told terrified residents, who were forced to witness the execution.

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According to witnesses, Hyesan residents were gathered in groups at the runway of the Heyesan airfield. The authorities put the teenage students in front of the public, announced their crime of distributing foreign media, sentenced them to death, and immediately shot them.

The executions occurred after authorities held public meetings to warn the public they would crack down on crimes involving foreign media, especially from more prosperous and democratic South Korea.

Executions of this kind are not unheard of in North Korea. Authorities will typically use executions to terrify people into behaving in the way they want them to.

The distribution of South Korean and Western movies, music, and TV shows has become increasingly popular in North Korea in recent years. People distribute the media among themselves after smugglers bring it into the country from China.

There is a growing concern in North Korea that South Korean culture, which is viewed as decadent and anti-revolutionary, is influencing North Korean youth. There have been reports over the years of authorities confiscating smartphones at random and punishing violators harshly.

According to a Hyesan source, citizens caught watching foreign movies will be sent to disciplinary labour centres. Those who are caught again will be sent to a correctional labour camp for five years, along with their parents, who must assume responsibility for their children's improper education.

If they are caught distributing or selling South Korean movies, however, they may be sentenced to death, even if they are minors.

Despite intensive control and crackdowns to eradicate “reactionary” thought and culture, young people continue to watch South Korean movies secretly. In order to reign terror throughout the community, the authorities have resorted to public executions.

Law enforcement agencies have ordered swift justice be served to people accused of possessing or distributing “impure” recordings and publications.