North Korea publicly executed at least 80 people in November 2013, many for watching smuggled South Korean TV shows, a South Korean newspaper JoongAng reported on Monday, November 11, 2013. According to both an unidentified source, and a very recent North Korean defector, huge crowds, it seems, were forced to witness brutal acts simultaneously on November 3, 2013, in the eastern port of Wonsan. With only three hours notice, the authorities gathered 10,000 people in a sports stadium to watch the execution of eight people by firing squad.
Several of the cities involved, including Wonsan and Pyongsong in the west, have been designated Special Economic Zones aimed at attracting foreign investment to boost the North’s corrupt, inefficient economy. Always ready to take back what it has gifted away to cooperative Communist Party members, the current dictatorship has accused certain ‘radishes’* of watching illicit South Korean TV dramas, some featuring prostitution. Hundreds were arrested, according to a defector-run website the North Korea Intellectual Solidarity. “The regime is obviously afraid of potential changes in people’s mindsets and is pre-emptively trying to scare people off,” said one website official, Pak su-ik
Illegal in the North, distribution of South Korean media made a handful of intrepid smugglers into relatively wealthy Robin Hood-type heroes. More often than not, however, much of this rebellious bravery and enterprise was part of a smoke screen operated by certain ruling-class-affiliated members of the C.P. With the death of the old dictator Kim Il-Sing, followed by his son Kim Jong-Il and the current rise of his son, Kim Jong-un, new sets of hustlers and ne’er-do-wells become interchangeable.
Schooled in Switzerland at an exclusive boarding school under a pseudonym, Kim the younger seems to have developed an educated palate for quality single-malt scotch whiskey, NBA basketball (as we see from his recent friendship with the tattooed and pierced power forward Dennis Rodman), the Japanese power pop music of Shonen Knife and Pink Lady, and, according to one of his former bodyguards who defected to the west, a taste in the kind of hard-core German porn that features golden showers and fist-fucking. For his 21st birthday in 2004, according to the sports digest Republica Deportivo, Kim Jong-Il rewarded his favorite son with a concert from Eric Clapton and a party featuring two ex-Chicago Bulls’ Toni Kucoc and Bill Wennington.
All of this would be neither here nor there, a bunch of rumors about a capricious bunch of political gangsters, had the Clapton and Bulls crews not brought in hundreds of goodies at the request of the birthday boy. Depending upon which South Korean anti-communist propaganda you read, the people around Kim Jong-un saw a chance and took it, especially the military faction which makes its own private deals through Jong-un’s savvy, slippery sister Kim Yo-jong. Exact numbers of copies are difficult to estimate, but as they tend to keep everything in the family, there were probably no more copies burned beyond a few hundred so that they could fetch an outrageously over inflated price.
Distribution problems were easier to circumvent because of technology, as less and less space was needed to smuggle in DVDs, flash drives and mp3 players. Hard-core porn, death metal rock and roll, and American TV shows like Desperate Housewives and the fanatically worshipped Jackass, all helped fetch big money for Jong-un. What may have backfired, however, is that, among the high-quality thrillers the young dictator enjoyed were South Korean gems like Kim Jee-Woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters, Je gyu-Kang’s Shiri and Wook-Hak Bak’s Tube. Explicitly sexy and violent, these movies openly criticized the Communist dictatorship. With the old man finally dead, however, Kim Jong-un stepped into power and realized, as his father and grandfather had done before him, that it was time to ‘ideologically purify’ the new regime. Consequently, Seoul’s JoongAng Ilbo daily reported that mass killings by firing squads were carried out in seven separate cities on November 3, 2013. The exact number of party enemies executed is hard to verify but seems too be around a hundred.
*A radish is a red vegetable that has a white inside when cut open. Chinese and Korean communists use the word as a derogatory metaphor for party traitors.