Two teenage boys bags 15 years, life imprisonment over K-pop

In North Korea, two teenage boys from the city of Sariwon recently went on trial in a public court have bagged 15 years and life imprisonment respectively. Their crime? Distribution of South Korean songs and photos.

The sentence was harsh: 15 years of hard labour for one of them, life imprisonment for the other.

According to information obtained by Daily NK, the boys were accused of “inciting the corrupt and depraved spirit of capitalism by disseminating songs and photos of the puppet state (of South Korea).”

The trial took place on May 23, and its participants included the heads of neighborhood watch units in the area, employees of the school where the boys attended, and ordinary citizens.

Eyewitness accounts show that both boys were fascinated by South Korean music. They often played songs and music videos of their idols, sang and danced at school and even outside of it. Their behaviour attracted the attention of a state security informant, which led to their arrest and prosecution.

The public trial was intended to create fear throughout Sariwon. Authorities condemned the boys for their “treacherous attachment to South Korea,” calling it a hostile state.

During the trial, the mothers of both boys were present. When the verdicts were read, they let out terrible screams and fainted. Those listening to the trial were surprised by the severity of the sentences. Many of them wondered why the boys had to be punished so severely.

16-year-old and 17-year-old publicly shot in Korea in 2022
This is not the first time that the authorities in Pyongyang have passed such cruel sentences on young people. In October 2022, teenagers were executed for selling flash drives containing South Korean films at a local market. The condemned were shot by a firing squad.

As reported by Radio Free Asia, the execution took place at the airport in the city of Hyesan, which is located right next to the border with China. Terrified residents were forced to watch it, a witness to the execution reported in an interview with RFA.

In January this year, the BBC obtained a shocking recording showing two 16-year-old boys being sentenced to 12 years of hard labour for watching South Korean series and popular K-dramas. The video, which was probably recorded in 2022, shows the brutality of Kim Jong Un’s regime, which severely punishes people for “lack of deep reflection on their mistakes.”

The video shows two teenagers in gray uniforms being handcuffed by officers in front of hundreds of students.

In North Korea, anything considered “Western” is strictly prohibited. Previously, young people who watched or distributed K-dramas were sent to youth labour camps, but not to prison.

Last September, Kim Jong Un ordered severe punishment for violators of the anti-reaction law, and serious violators face, among others, exile to rural areas with their families.

The order stated that even violators whose relatives had gained special favour with the Workers’ Party, such as pilots or “heroes,” must be severely punished and exiled along with their families.

“In late September, Order No. 1 (signed by Kim Jong Un) was issued to mercilessly punish people who commit crimes against the Party or the state, regardless of their status, age or job. The order also says that violators may be exiled from the place of residence, along with their families,” an anonymous source told Daily NK in South Pyongan Province.

In the past, “criminal” families were only punished if a relative was sent to a prison run by the Ministry of State Security. However, the latest Order No. 1 states that even family members of criminals sent to re-education camps can now be sentenced to exile depending on the nature and gravity of the crime committed.

The new law ordered officials to end the previous practice of omitting violations of anti-reactionary law if the perpetrator’s family included someone who had previously gained special favour with the Workers’ Party, including government-recognised heroes, pilots, or people who had met the nation’s “supreme leader.”

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