According to Radio Free Asia, “the smuggler” who sold the North Korean students his USB copy of “Squid Game” was sentenced to death by firing squad after authorities discovered that he brought the Netflix series into the country from China, which is a violation of North Korea’s new “Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture” law.
Established in 2020, the legislation carries a maximum penalty of death for anyone caught “watching, keeping, or distributing media from capitalist countries, particularly from South Korea and the US,” the RFA reports. Sources told the media outlet that the show’s “dystopian world” in which people compete for a giant cash prize and face elimination by death resonates with North Koreans who have “risky occupations and insecure positions.” Meanwhile, North Korea has also accused its neighbors to the South of life imitating art, with one report from a propaganda site in October 2021 describing “Squid Game” as a “brutal” reflection of South Korean society (per NBC News).
According to NBC, many South Koreans actually do feel like “Squid Game” accurately portrays the wealth inequality they experience, just not on the level that North Korea says. “It dealt with such familiar stories of debt-ridden people you come across in real life,” explained Jung Dunn, a security analyst living in Seoul, to NBC. “The story stems from a deeply rooted perception of how society looks at failure, especially individual financial failure.”