North Korea has reportedly publicly executed at least 7 people for watching K-pop

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images

A new report from a human rights group has found North Korea has publicly executed at least seven people for watching or distributing K-pop videos in the last decade, according to The New York Times.

The report was released Wednesday by the Transitional Justice Working Group, and it was based on interviews with almost 700 defectors from North Korea. The report pointed to testimonies of public executions under North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and said that one of the most common offenses was "watching or distributing South Korean videos."

Kim Jong-un has called K-pop a "vicious cancer," complaining that South Korean culture was corrupting North Koreans' "attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors," the Times reported. Wilson Center senior fellow Jean Lee explained to CNN that North Korea sees it as a threat for young people to be "watching South Korean dramas and seeing what life is like for Koreans outside their country, because they're seeing images of Seoul, of how well they're living, how freely they're living."

According to the Times, distributing South Korean entertainment can be punishable by death under a law adopted in North Korea last year, and last month, a man who smuggled the South Korean Netflix series Squid Game into North Korea was reportedly sentenced to death.

The new human rights report said "the families of those being executed were often forced to watch the execution." It also found that North Korea has been responding to international criticism by changing its execution practices, "selecting execution sites that are easier to control" to prevent leaks. But lead author Ahyeong Park said that "state-led killings continue to take place in ways that may not be as visible to the public as they did in the past," adding that "what we need to pay closer attention to is non-public killings, such as secret or 'indoor' killings."

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