May 31 (UPI) -- Circulating Hollywood movies or South Korean television dramas may be punishable by death in North Korea, although more North Koreans have access to media from the outside world.
A source in North Korea told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday the state has designated the "viewing and importation of illegal video material as 'anti-state activity,' and the act would be punished accordingly."
Illegal films refer to "all material produced outside the country," the source said. "In the past the viewing of illegal films was seen as 'non-socialist' activity and punished as an act of engaging the culture of yellow capitalism."
"But recently the activity was designated as an act of espionage, an anti-state crime," the source said.
The source added that neighborhood units, factories and workplaces are the target of state education campaigns urging citizens to "shake off the decadent capitalist ideology eating away at our socialist system."
Each participant was forced to sign a pledge, agreeing to submit to "any form of punishment" if they are found responsible for circulating or viewing illegal media.
The new law went into effect in mid-May and has discouraged people from sharing movies on flash drives with friends, a common practice in a country where even border guards reportedly watch South Korean soap operas in their spare time.
North Koreans who were caught watching the videos typically received a three- to five-year sentence at a labor camp. The punishment took into consideration the content of the video material.
The latest measures mean a minimum five-year labor sentence for North Koreans who watch foreign media, and a death penalty cannot be ruled out for distributors, RFA's source said.
Capital punishment at the local level, however, may have already been enforced for sharing foreign media.
In 2015 three women were reportedly executed for distributing a South Korean television drama, and six people were executed by gun in 2014 for bringing in illegal videos into the country, according to the report.