Kim Jong-un’s efforts to eradicate the K-Pop music that he considers a “vicious cancer” have resulted in at least seven people being publicly executed in North Korea, according to a new report by a human rights group.

Via the New York Times, the study comes from the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), which interviewed 683 North Korean defectors since 2015. The authors attempted to map public executions in the decade since Kim became Supreme Leader in 2011, while also noting that public killings were on the decline as secret executions surged.

Of the seven known executions for watching or distributing K-pop videos, six took place between 2012 and 2014 in the city of Hyesan on the Chinese border. Local people, especially students, were brought to view the violent spectacles, and according to the report, “The families of those being executed were often forced to watch the execution.”


The TJWG has tracked a total of 23 public executions in the last ten years, with the most common crime being viewing videos from South Korea. Besides those seven executions, North Korea has also put five people to death for drug-related crimes, another five for prostitution, four for human trafficking, three for murder or attempted murder, and three for “obscene acts.”

21 of the 23 known executions involved a firing squad, in which three soldiers would fire a total of nine shots. The other two people were put to death by hanging. In each instance, government officials would tell the gathered crowd that the people condemned to die were a social evil.

The report authors noted that, “Documenting secret or ‘indoor’ killings is our next step,” though the task is likely to be more difficult.

In 2020, North Korea passed the Elimination of Reactionary Thought and Culture Act, which made illegal “listening to, recording or distributing foreign radio radio broadcasts; importing and distributing ‘impure’ foreign recordings, video content, books or other published materials; and copying or distributing music unapproved by the state.” Last month, Radio Free Asia reported that a man had been sentenced to death for smuggling in copies the hit TV series Squid Game. North Korean propagandists had previously claimed that Squid Game proves life in South Korea is “brutal.”