A man has reportedly been sentenced to death after he was caught smuggling copies of the South Korean Netflix hit Squid Game into neighbouring North Korea. According to Radio Free Asia (via Variety), authorities were led to the man after they discovered the survival series was being watched by high school students, who are also facing strict punishments.
Reportedly, copies of Squid Game were smuggled into the country via USB drives from China, where the show is officially unavailable, but has nevertheless gained popularity as it’s accessed through piracy sites.
Detailing the punishments, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that the smuggler’s sentence will be carried out by firing squad. A student who bought a flash drive has additionally been given a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years hard labor. Teachers and school administrators have also been fired, and will likely face banishment to work in remote mines.
“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 source in law enforcement in North Hamgyong province tells RFA. “The friend told several other students, who became interested, and they shared the flash drive with them. They were caught by the censors… who had received a tipoff.”
Last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced stronger punishments for the possession of videos produced in South Korea, as part of a border crackdown against outside cultural influence (which also includes a ban on mullets and skinny jeans). Earlier this year, he also denounced K-pop, calling the genre a “vicious cancer”.
Squid Game’s viral success since launching in September this year has inspired demonstrations in South Korea, where protesters have worn the show’s iconic outfits at marches to call for better conditions and a higher minimum wage. It’s also caused controversy in the UK and US, as children apparently reenact the violence seen in the show, though these reports have largely been downplayed as fearmongering.
Earlier this month, Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk confirmed that the show will be back for a second season, though Netflix is yet to make an official announcement.