Sun, 19 Jan 2020

Authorities in North Korea have exposed a group of 13 current and former Kim Il Sung University students for allegedly producing and distributing pornography.

The group, all of whom are the children of elites attending the country's most prestigious academic institution, was publicly tried at a theatre in Pyongyang.

Sources say the trial has aroused suspicion that authorities are using it as an exhibition intended to scare the public, as a means to prevent illegal videos from spreading too widely.

"There was a public trial held at Tongdaewon Theatre in Pyongyang at the end of November for four students and nine graduates of Kim Il Sung University who produced and distributed adult videos," a Pyongyang official told RFA's Korean Service on Monday.

"The public trial was organized by the Ministry of People's Security in Pyongyang, and the parents of the accused, as well as a large number of college students attended," the source said.

The source told RFA that the accused were computer science majors who not only knew the ins and outs of computer technology, they also knew their way around editing software. They were caught in the act of reediting porn from overseas and selling it.

"The students did not just copy the original SD card containing adult videos from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. They edited the adult videos on their own, making them more provocative and sold them at a higher price," the source said.

As most North Koreans have no access to the internet, only physical copies of foreign media can penetrate the country, where there is a vibrant black market of media shared on SD cards and USB flash drives.

"A [flash drive] containing the adult videos they produced was going for more than US$100," the source said.

"The original adult videos were mostly smuggled in by the children of diplomats and embassy staff from overseas. They were able to hide SD cards when entering Pyongyang," the source added.

The source also said that at the trial, it was not only the pornography ring students on trial. Their parents were also targeted for criticism.

"[Their] parents are mostly senior-level officials who hold key positions in the [Korean Workers'] Party and judicial organizations, the source said, adding, "In the trial, the parents had to face harsh criticism for failing to educate their children properly, since the students were making unhealthy and exotic erotic videos that run counter to the tenets of socialism.

The source said authorities put out the view that society could not tolerate threats to the socialist revolution, regardless of the social status of those involved.

"The trial specifically emphasized that the most serious social transformation in the development of human history is the socialist construction process, and it can encounter all kinds of hostile and non-socialist phenomena, so it inevitably entails struggle to eliminate them," the source said.

"They said even VIPs are no exception in the fight against anti-socialism. It was a warning to the officials," the source said.

The source said the authorities were pushing the idea that a failure to guide the next generation properly would ruin society.

"The trial argued that if the ideological education for young people, who are heirs of the revolution, is kept on the sidelines for a moment, it will result in an irreparable aftermath to the existence and development of the socialist country," said the source.

"The open trial urged us to raise our awareness, saying if we fail to root out the decadent bourgeois lifestyle among the young, we will end up handing over the socialist system, as a whole, to the enemies of the revolution," the source said.

Yet because of the porn pushers' elite status, their sentence was never likely be harsh, according to the source.

"If ordinary college students committed such crimes, they would at least be sent to a correctional labor center or disciplinary labor camps. These are the children of high-ranking officials, so they seem to have punished them by making harsh criticism and humiliating the students and their parents," the source said.

According to articles 193 and 194 of the 2009 Criminal Law of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the sentence for importing, possessing, distributing, watching or performing in porn can be hard labor ranging between "less than two years," to as long as "less than five years," depending on the degree of offense.

Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA's Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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