A video clip from North Korea showing two 16-year-old boys being sentenced to 12 years of forced labor for watching South Korean T.V. shows (K-dramas) was reported by the BBC this week. Experts agree the clip is most likely from 2022, created by North Korean authorities and distributed in country for “ideology education.” South and North Development (Sand), a research institute that works with defectors from the North, had distributed the video globally.
Teens sentenced to modern slavery for “Reactionary Thought and Culture”
Watching K-dramas or listening to K-pop bands has long been outlawed under the repressive regime in North Korea. In the past, minors who broke the law were sent to do forced labor at youth labor camps and the punishment was usually less than five years. But a stricter law was recently passed titled “Reactionary Thought and Culture Denunciation” which bans foreign cell phones, entertainment from South Korea, Japan, and the U.S., even slang from South Korea and ramps up the punishment for any infractions
“North Koreans who violate the ban face punishments of forced labor or even the death penalty.”
A UN report found that North Korea used forced hard labor under extremely harsh conditions as punishment for even ordinary crimes for anyone held in either the short-term or long-term hard labor prison camps.
According to the 2023 Global Slavery Index, North Korea tops the world with an estimated over 2 million people living in modern slavery or forced to work by the state.