North Korean Teenagers Sentenced to 12 Years of Hard Labor for Watching K-Dramas

A chilling video showing the apparent conviction of two 16-year-old North Korean boys to 12 years of hard labor for watching South Korean soap operas recently went viral online.

In a video obtained by the BBC, two young boys in grey uniforms can be seen on a stage surrounded by hundreds of people as they receive their sentence for the “horrible” crime of watching and distributing K-dramas from the “puppet” South Korean regime. All manner of South Korean entertainment, including television programs, is forbidden in South Korea, and according to a law enacted by the Hermit Kingdom in 2020, watching or distributing South Korean entertainment is punishable by serious prison time or even death. But some people are still willing to risk their lives for a glimpse into the neighboring country.

“The rotten puppet regime’s culture has spread even to teenagers,” a narrator says in reference to South Korea. “They are just 16 years old, but they ruined their own future.”

It’s a devastating sentence for two teenagers, especially considering their “crime,” but they can technically consider themselves lucky. According to a North Korean defector who agreed to talk to the BBC, he was forced to watch a 22-year-old man get shot by a firing squad for listening to South Korean music and sharing it with his friend.

Interstingly, when getting caught watching American entertainment, you can get out of it with a small bribe, but getting caught in South Korean programs is infinitely worse.

“If you get caught watching an American drama, you can get away with a bribe, but if you watch a Korean drama, you get shot,” a North Korean defector told the BBC. “For North Korean people, Korean dramas are a ‘drug’ that helps them forget their difficult reality.”


That’s because K-dramas and anything that risks earning people’s admiration for the South Korean regime is a major threat to the North Korean leadership, so it justifies ruining young people’s lives to set examples for other offenders.

“In North Korea, we learn that South Korea lives much worse than us, but when you watch South Korean dramas, it’s a completely different world. It seems like the North Korean authorities are wary of that,” another North Korean defector said.

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