Almost two years since its release and subsequent rise to global popularity, the K-drama “Crash Landing on You” continues to leave an impact on its fans. In North Korea, where the drama’s storyline is based, several teens caught watching the series are allegedly facing prison time among other harsher sentences. The incident, while unconfirmed, has heightened awareness of the country’s human rights atrocities after being shared in a viral video.
Seoul-based publication The Daily NK, which specializes in North Korean news that relies on a network of sources from inside the hermit kingdom, reported in late August that eight teens were put on public trial for watching and imitating the characters of various South Korean dramas including the popular “Crash Landing on You.”
TikToker @Priscillakwon spread the news on her account, which is known for keeping followers up to date with all-things Korea. The video has gained over 300,000 likes and shares how six teenagers have been sentenced to jail after being caught watching and reenacting South Korean shows, referring to another similar incident from earlier this year via local news site Insight.
“You could see how harshly the six students had been interrogated just by looking at them when they were dragged out at the trial,” a source told Daily NK in the earlier report. “Their faces were nothing but skin and bones and they couldn’t even hold their bodies upright.”
While it is unclear what exactly happened to the teens in the latest incident, it’s nothing new for North Korean civilians to face harsh punishment for seemingly innocuous crimes related to entertainment. In April, a man was reportedly executed in public for selling CDs and USBs filled with South Korean media.
Authorities are said to have been pushing for citizens to report on each other following the enactment of a law from last December that would “eradicate ‘reactionary thought and culture.’”
While “Crash Landing on You” is among several videos that the teens in the latest alleged incident were caught watching, the involvement of the drama points to the twisted irony of the incident, as the restrictions imposed by the North Korean government are central to the plot. The main character, a South Korean woman, accidentally finds herself in her country’s northern counterpart and risks capture or death as she finds a way home. In the process, she falls in love with a North Korean soldier who attempts to help her.
The drama, which has become South Korea’s second-highest rated show in its TV history, as per South China Morning Post, was lauded for its representation of North Korean life by defectors of the state.
“In North Korea, films are all about the party, the country, the state,” defector Kang Nara, a consultant for the show, told NPR. “But South Korean dramas were about everyday life, like dating, falling in love, dressing nicely and having fun, and I liked that.”
Featured Image via “Crash Landing On You” on Netflix