Rights group claims North Korea executes people for listening to K-pop

At least seven people have reportedly been killed in state-sanctioned public executions

North Korea has allegedly executed at least seven people for listening to K-pop, according to a recently published report by a human rights group.

The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group (TWJG), which is “supported” by the US government-funded organisation National Democratic Institute (NDI), claimed in its recently published 2021 human rights report that it has interviewed 683 North Korean defectors since 2015 in order to map locations in the North where people have been executed and buried through state-sanctioned public executions.

According to the report, as seen by The New York Times, North Korea has allegedly publicly executed at least seven people who have been caught watching or distributing K-pop videos and music within the so-called hermit kingdom.


TJWG also claims that six of these alleged cases occurred somewhere between 2012 to 14, with “the families of those being executed [being] forced to watch the execution”.

Aside from K-pop, The New York Times also cited other sources, such as news website NK Daily, that claimed those found in possession of other South Korean content, such as K-dramas and films, had also been publicly executed.

The publication cited footage shown by South Korean TV network Channel A last year, in which a North Korean student had been “condemned” for being in possession of a USB drive that allegedly stored “a movie and 75 songs from South Korea”.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had described K-pop as a “vicious cancer” earlier this year, while also declaring a new culture war in an effort to halt the spread and influence of South Korean movies, K-dramas and K-pop videos among his citizens through a secretive anti-K-pop campaign.