A man who smuggled pirated copies of Squid Game into North Korea has been sentenced to death. The series, which recently became Netflix’s most-watched original series ever, took the world by storm upon its release back in September. The show follows a group of poor South Korean citizens who accept invitations to compete in a series of children’s games with deadly stakes in an attempt to win a huge cash prize.
The series has been praised for, among other things, its critique of capitalism and its exploration of the divide between the various South Korean social strata. North Korea decried the show shortly after its release, publicly declaring the show an indictment of South Korea’s capitalist system. Despite the government’s best efforts to censor all capitalist and “Western” content, reports emerged last week that many North Korean citizens were secretly watching Squid Game through copies that had been smuggled into the country.
The decision to execute the smuggler mirrors a similar case earlier this year when it was reported that another man was executed for selling USB drives with South Korean media on them. The students who had been found to have watched the series will also face punishment from the North Korean government, with one student receiving a life sentence in prison, and several others sentenced to five years of hard labor. Many of the students’ teachers and administrators have also been fired and could be banished to work in remote mining operations.
The unfortunate news is another reminder of just how seriously the North Korean government approaches the perceived “protection” of its citizens from outside cultural influences. Infamously, in 2014, the Seth Rogen comedy, The Interview, essentially caused an international incident, with North Korean-
sponsored hackers suspected to be behind the massive data breach of Sony Pictures and the subsequent leaking of the company’s confidential information. When it comes to media (and many other things) the North Korean government doesn’t have any semblance of a sense of humor, and the news of the smuggler’s death sentence is but more proof that the country’s leaders remain committed to enforcing a culture of fear and blind obedience among its citizens, even it means executing someone for sharing episodes of Squid Game.