The North Korean authorities have reportedly reminded citizens that they could face execution if they indulge in watching South Korean television shows.
According to Radio Free Asia, the regime has been hosting lectures in South Hwanghae province, in the west of the country near the border with South Korea, to demand that residents abstain from watching “decadent video materials of capitalism”.
A source told the outlet’s Korean service that police officials began hosting lectures in the province in the new year.
“In a recent lecture, they told us they are aware that a growing number of people are able to manipulate the frequencies [of their televisions] to watch South Korean TV programmes,” the source said.
“They said that regardless of any individual’s status, those caught in violation could be executed by firing squad. [They want to] instill fear,” the source added.
The report suggests that the recent thaw between North and South Korea has emboldened North Koreans near the border to take the risk of secretly watching forbidden television shows at dawn, during times of peak electricity.
“The authorities have been focusing on South Hwanghae because it is relatively close to the DMZ (demilitarised zone),” the source said.
“They believe that the people living in the border regions are more likely to turn into an opposition force, posing a threat to the system.”
The Telegraph could not independently verify the information, or whether the threat of execution is a scare tactic intended to control the population. However, if confirmed, it hints at growing concern among the North Korean authorities that outside information could prompt citizens to push for change.
Activists in South Korea have long-waged campaigns to flood the North with flashdrives containing news bulletins and documentaries or to release balloons filled with money, food and fliers, in an attempt to influence the public and foster dissent.
Smuggling and possession of such items carry stiff penalties, including the risk of a prison sentence.
Controlling the flow of information to the Hermit Kingdom is crucial to Kim Jong-un’s ability to maintain his iron grip on power and the loyalty of his citizens, say analysts.
But unlike his father and grandfather, who created legends about their own achievements and abilities among the population, the younger Kim faces the challenge of keeping his people isolated from the global internet age to sustain the propaganda narrative about his own god-like status.
Officially, citizens may only access the state intranet and its heavily censored content, while calls or emails to foreigners must be registered with the local authorities.
Foreign news is highly restricted and pornography and Bibles are both considered to be “evil methods of infiltration”, used to “destabilise society.”