Listening to Music and Other Totally Normal Things That Can Have You Executed by Kim Jong Un’s Regime in North Korea

We’re seemingly drifting between looming nuclear warfare to complete peace with North Korea these days. And though none of us is totally sure what goes on behind closed doors, we do know of many atrocities committed by Kim Jong Un and his family over the years. Scarily enough, we also know execution by firing squad happens with fair frequency, too.

If you want to live in North Korea unscathed, you’ll have to forego these totally normal, everyday things. And watch out for the one thing you absolutely can’t do as a foreigner in North Korea unless you want to risk death (page 8).

1. A North Korean man was killed for calling a friend in another country

A man holding an iPhone.

A person with a phone | Prykhodov/iStock/Getty Images

Communication in North Korea is limited to those within the country, so citizens shouldn’t even think about contacting anyone from the outside world.

Daily Mail Online reports in 2010, one North Korean citizen called a friend in South Korea on a mobile phone. Kim Jong Un’s regime then raided the man’s home and found his device, which was illegal to own. After that, they tortured him until he admitted to speaking with a friend who defected to South Korea several years prior. The man was then executed.

Next: Want to see a movie from another country? Not so fast. 

2. Dozens have reportedly been executed for watching foreign films or TV

VHS cassettes on a table.

If you do this, prepare for major punishment. |

According to a South Korean newspaper, North Korea executed dozens of its own citizens for minor crimes, such as watching South Korean television programs, The Telegraph reports. The newspaper allegedly added that the executions were public. And the local authorities forced up to 10,000 citizens, including children, to watch.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard of North Korea executing its citizens for consuming foreign media, either. And it probably won’t be the last.

Next: Your favorite music probably isn’t allowed in North Korea. 

3. Citizens have allegedly been killed for listening to foreign music

A closeup iphone and earphones or headphones device on table.

This is definitely not allowed. | Blackzheep/iStock/Getty Images

Staying in line with its anti-outsider philosophy, the North Korean regime only allows its citizens to listen to music approved by the state. Any foreign music is strictly forbidden and can lead to jail time or even execution.

It’s not just music North Koreans are listening to, either. PRI notes most citizens have found access to illegal foreign radio and are using that as their only connection to world news.

Next: North Koreans aren’t looking at the same webpages you are. 

4. Citizens absolutely cannot access the real internet

A row of computers in a room.

North Korean citizens experience the internet in much different ways. | Ljupco/iStock/Getty Images

Sorry, but your favorite social media pages and online threads are surely not allowed in North Korea. Just like how citizens can be executed for communicating with the outside world via phone, the same can happen if they attempt to access the internet the rest of us can use.

As for what North Koreans can safely look at, Gizmodo notes they have 28 websites that are Kim-approved. From the looks of it, they have their own social media network, travel website, and university page, but there’s not much else.

Next: Kim Jong Un may have executed his ex-girlfriend for this very thing. 

5. Kim reportedly executed his ex-girlfriend for violating pornography laws

Kim Jong-un with his army

Kim Jong Un goes to extremes to punish people for not following rules — even his own girlfriends. | KNS/AFP/Getty Images.

It may be easy and legal to access in the U.S., but such is not that case for pornography in North Korea. A South Korean newspaper reported a number of singers, musicians, and dancers were accused of selling pornographic videos of themselves in North Korea a few years back. For this crime, they were sentenced to death by firing squad, Spin reports.

One of those performers was allegedly an ex-girlfriend of Kim Jong Un, as well. It seems Kim has no problem killing those once close to him for violating his laws.

Next: In times of mourning political leaders, there are certain things you absolutely cannot do. 

6. Kim executed a military officer for not mourning his father’s death appropriately

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in front of a row of mics.

Kim Jong Un punished citizens for not mourning the death of his father. | Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Daily Mail Online reports a North Korean military officer was executed via mortar shell blast for disrespecting the 100-day period that was designed specifically for mourning the loss of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il. His crime? Drinking alcohol.

Kim Jong Un demanded the entire population of North Korea abstain from any pleasurable activities for 100 days to mourn properly. Evidently, anyone who didn’t show enough remorse was killed.

Next: Love Christmas? It’s best not to in North Korea. 

7. Practicing Christmas or any Christian holidays is grounds for execution

Santa in a casual red suit carries a Christmas tree.

There aren’t any traditional Christmas celebrations in North Korea. | Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

North Korea is an agnostic nation, and Kim Jong Un plans on keeping it that way. According to Time, Christians are arrested for celebrating Christmas or any religious holiday. And Christian religious leaders who teach their faith are also routinely executed.

Why the hate on Christianity? Experts believe Kim views it as a threat to the regime and wants citizens to celebrate more patriotic holidays instead. And it seems many underground Christian churches in North Korea are helping citizens escape to China.

Next: We all remember what happened to American Otto Warmbier.

8. An American died after taking a North Korean poster

A sign and memorial in front of Otto's home.

A young American tourist was killed for trying to steal a poster. | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

What happened to American student Otto Warmbier still shocks us. CNN reports 22-year-old Warmbier took a propaganda poster from a restricted floor in his hotel during a five-day sightseeing tour in North Korea. Due to this crime, he was detained for 17 months and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

He eventually returned to the U.S., but he didn’t get away unscathed. He was unresponsive and brain damaged when he arrived and died shortly after.

Next: If you value your life, you should never attempt to do this if you’re a North Korean citizen. 

9. Anyone who attempts to leave North Korea will be shot and killed

Map of North Korea through magnifying glass.

Leaving the country for good is extremely risky. | naruedom/iStock/Getty Images

Global News explains over 1,000 North Koreans successfully defect every year, but it’s seriously risky. Many accounts explain any North Korean citizen who gets caught will be killed.

This rule applies to soldiers, too. The New York Times reports North Korean troops shot a fellow soldier as he attempted to leave the country across the heavily armed border. He lived but not without several gunshot wounds.

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