Three North Koreans from Yanggang Province have reportedly been executed for watching South Korean TV dramas with their mobile phones. The execution, although carried out in private, is seen as being part of Pyongyang’s drive to stamp out illegal viewing of outside content by setting an example.

“Last month, three residents were shot to death for watching South Korean dramas using memory cards,” the source from Yanggang Province told Daily NK on September 9th. “In the past, we had seen cadre members who had watched dramas or vendors who made CDs being executed, but now that seems to include residents (who watch dramas) as well, making everyone very nervous.”

This information was crosschecked with  an additional source in the same province.

The three executed were exposed during beefed up inspections. State Security Department agents arrested them and handed them over to Ministry of People's Security personnel after interrogation. The execution was not public and instead carried out somewhere in Kimjongsuk County, according to the source.

“Even though it wasn’t public, a lot of people are aware of the news, so they’re taking extra precautions,” she explained, adding that because word of mouth quickly spreads the news many will likely take extra precautions regarding their viewing habits of media from below the border.

Those executed were caught in the act of watching the dramas from memory cards on Bluetooth-enabled smartphones. They were killed to send a message to others about what happens when people ‘get caught up in corrupt and depraved ideologies and go against the Party to watch such video content’, the source explained, citing a cadre with close knowledge of security agency matters.

“The people who were executed were from Kanggu, Keomsanri, and Yonbongdong, and they had obtained the memory cards (packed with South Korean shows) from Chinese traders while they were working as smugglers,” the source said. “With border security being at much higher levels, they had temporarily halted their smuggling operations; the problem stemmed from them filling the extra time on their hands by watching South Korean dramas.”

The number of people who own smartphones that can play back video is limited in the North, and this enables security agents to keep closer tabs on those who do, said the source. Around two to three people out of ten own a smartphone, so it is easy for security and safety agents to monitor them and wiretap their devices if they need, she asserted.

“The three thought if they were on the move constantly enough while watching the dramas, they wouldn’t get caught,” the source said. “But having figured out that people were watching with memory cards, security agents narrowed down their surveillance to those who have Bluetooth phones and were able to apprehend them.”

Within one inminban (people’s unit), there are up to two to three or even five Bluetooth-enabled phones, and they are mostly used by Party cadres and smugglers. Those who have Bluetooth access need to sign up and pay roughly 500,000 KPW a month for the service, so, citing costs, the source said that most people use flip phones or sliders.

At a mobile communications vendor in Yanggang Province, a Bluetooth-enabled phone fetches around 2,500 to 3,000 RMB (4 mil. KPW), while simpler flip phones or sliders are priced anywhere between 800 to 1,200 RMB (1 mil. to 1.6 mil. KPW). (Daily NK)