The oppressive soap opera of North Korea

The oppressive soap opera of North Korea
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Highlights

North Korea recently saw a man executed for being caught with a South Korean drama. His entire neighbourhood was ordered to watch that execution. "If you didn't, it would be classed as treason," people were told..

North Korea recently saw a man executed for being caught with a South Korean drama. His entire neighbourhood was ordered to watch that execution. "If you didn't, it would be classed as treason," people were told.. The North Korean guards were making sure everyone knew the penalty for smuggling illicit videos was death. Imagine being in a constant state of lockdown with no internet, no social media and only a few state controlled television channels designed to tell you what the country's leaders want you to hear - this is life in North Korea.

And now its leader Kim Jong-Un has clamped down further, introducing a sweeping new law against what the regime describes as "reactionary thought". Anyone caught with media from South Korea, the United States or Japan now faces the death penalty. Those caught watching face prison camp for 15 years. The Daily NK, an online publication in Seoul with sources in North Korea, was the first to get hold of a copy of the law.

It states that if a worker is caught, the head of the factory can be punished, and if a child is problematic, parents can also be punished. The system of mutual monitoring encouraged by the North Korean regime is aggressively reflected in this law. And it's not just about what people watch. Recently, Kim wrote a letter in state media calling on the country's Youth League to crack down on "unsavoury, individualistic, anti-socialist behaviour" among young people. He wants to stop foreign speech, hairstyles and clothes which he described as "dangerous poisons".

The Daily NK reported that three teenagers had been sent to a re-education camp for cutting their hair like K-pop idols and hemming their trousers above their ankles. All this is because Kim Jong-Un is in a war that does not involve nuclear weapons or missiles. Analysts say he is trying to stop outside information reaching the people of North Korea as life in the country becomes increasingly difficult.

Millions of people are thought to be going hungry. Kim wants to ensure they are still being fed the state's carefully crafted propaganda, rather than gaining glimpses of life according to glitzy K-dramas set south of the border in Seoul, one of Asia's richest cities. North Koreans get all their news, entertainment and information from state media, which unfailingly praises the leadership.

According to Reporters without Borders, citizens can be sent to prison for viewing, reading or listening to content provided by international media outlets. The country has been more cut off from the outside world than ever before after sealing its border last year in response to the pandemic. Vital supplies and trade from neighbouring China almost ground to a halt. Although some supplies are beginning to get through, imports are still limited.

This self-imposed isolation has exacerbated an already failing economy where money is funneled into the regime's nuclear ambitions.

Earlier this year Kim himself admitted that his people were facing the worst-ever situation which they had to overcome. But then, dictatorship grows over time.

It begins with your food habits, your clothing, your beliefs, your systems, language and then moves on to bigger things. Isn't it so?

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