North Korean man reportedly sentenced to death for bootlegging Squid Game
On the news today, "Dystopia responds to dystopia": A North Korean was reportedly sentenced to death by firing squad after he was accused of pirating Netflix's Squid game to a handful of teenagers in the country. Radio Free Asia reports that the man was caught after some of the students were spotted watching the hugely successful South Korean export.
North Korea, of course, has a long history of interactions, fascination and attempts to control the spread of media from outside the country within its borders. Squid Game's success is believed to have only spurred those efforts on, due to a variety of factors including the longstanding tension between the two nations and the fact that the series directly touches North Korea's internal troubles by playing one of its characters (Kang Sae -Byeo, played by Jung Ho-Yeon) a North Korean defector who plays the series' deadly games to raise money to smuggle her family out of the country.
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In addition to the death sentence imposed on the man who allegedly smuggled the show (on a flash drive from China), North Korean authorities also reportedly have a number of students who watched the show for up to five years or less sentenced to more forced labor. All involved will be punished under North Korea's new Act to Eliminate Reactionary Thought and Culture, passed last year, which makes it a potential capital crime to distribute or watch media from capitalist countries.
There is a certain grim irony in the fact that a series that is an explicit (and not particularly subtle) condemnation of capitalism serves as the focal point for such action by a communist government. But, Radio Free Asia notes that Squid Games' focus on strict, arbitrary rules with fatal consequences for violating them appears to resonate with at least some North Korean citizens. Meanwhile, police are reportedly searching the country for more stores containing the series stored on them, and educators in the schools where the pirated copies were found have also been fined.
RFA notes that there have also been rumors that at least one student who watched the show was spared his classmates' punishment for having their parents have the money to bribe the authorities, which, yes: that is actually pretty squid game.
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