Youngkyu Park
Youngkyu Park
  • Illegal copies of "Squid Game" are circulating in North Korea after being smuggled into the country, a new report says.
  • The North Korean government imposed stiff punishments for anyone caught enjoying South Korean entertainment.
  • A Pyongsong resident said North Koreans can relate to the financial struggles felt by characters in the show.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Illegal copies of popular Netflix hit "Squid Game" are now spreading in North Korea amid the country's crackdown on foreign media, Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday.

The popular dystopian Korean survival drama, which debuted on Netflix in mid-September, follows 456 adults with mounting debt playing children's games to win about $38 million.

Those who are unable to complete the challenges are literally eliminated from the series of games — killed by either the deadly consequences of the activity or by the mysterious mask-donning workers operating the games.

In January, the North Korean government threatened to punish anyone caught enjoying South Korean entertainment with stiff fines or prison time, Reuters reported. Despite the threat of retribution, smuggled copies of the South Korean series still made their way into the country, RFA reported.

"'Squid Game has been able to enter the country on memory storage devices such as USB flash drives and SD cards, which are smuggled in by ship, and then make their way inland," a resident of Pyongsong, north of the capital Pyongyang, told RFA.

The Pyongsong resident said one of the show's characters, Kang Sae-Byeok (Player 067), portrayed by actress Jung Ho-Yeon, was of particular interest to North Korean audiences because Kang is a North Korean defector who participated in the deadly games with hopes of using the prize money for her younger brother and to help her mother escape the country.

"One of the characters is a North Korean escapee and they can relate to her," the source said, adding that young people in the North Korean capital Pyongyang "secretly watch the show under their blankets at night on their portable media players."

Like many South Koreans who say the show emulates their life in their country amid a mounting national debt crisis, the Pyongsong resident, who remained unidentified, told RFA that the show resonates with North Koreans as well.

"They say that the content is similar to the lives of Pyongyang officials who fight in the foreign currency market as if it is a fight for life and death," the resident said.

"They think the show's plot kind of parallels their own reality, where they know they could be executed at any time if the government decides to make an example out of them for making too much money, but they (government officials) all continue to make as much money as possible," they continued.

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