‘Squid Game’ smuggler sentenced to death in North Korea after students caught watching Netflix show

A man who smuggled copies of smash hit South Korean Netflix series “Squid Game” into North Korea has been sentenced to death, after authorities caught high school students watching the show, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

U.S.-headquartered independent news agency RFA reported, quoting sources, that the series was smuggled in from China on USB flash drives and that the smuggler faces death by firing squad.

“A student who bought a drive received a life sentence, while six others who watched the show have been sentenced to five years hard labor, and teachers and school administrators have been fired and face banishment to work in remote mines,” RFA reported.

In December 2020, North Korea passed the “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture” act, which prohibits the entry and dissemination of cultural material like films, plays, music and books in the country. The act is mainly aimed at preventing the spread of media from South Korea and the U.S. and those found distributing or consuming these are liable to be punished.

According to widespread reports, in April this year a man was publicly executed for selling drives and CDs containing South Korean material.

“Squid Game,” in particular, has been a source of anger in the dictatorship. North Korean propaganda site Arirang Meari excoriated the high-concept survival drama as depicting the “sad reality of a beastly South Korean society.”

The RFA report suggests that there is great public anxiety over the fate of the high school students and that more people could be implicated in the investigation.

Variety has reached out to Netflix for comment.

Netflix is not available in China, but “Squid Game” has been pirated widely in the country, per reports.

Subscribe to Variety Newsletters and Email Alerts!