Korean bands such as BTS and Blackpink have taken over the hearts and playlists of teenagers across the world, but for the North Korean government, these pop bands appear to present a threat. According to a recent New York Times report, the country has publicly executed at least seven people for watching or distributing K-pop videos.
This information comes from the Seoul-based human rights group, called the Transitional Justice Working Group, which interviewed hundreds of North Korean defectors who have documented 23 state-sanctioned executions since Kim Jong-un’s rise to power. As Stereogum reports, people were executed for trying to smuggle South Korean entertainment (a “vicious cancer” in the dictator’s eyes) on USB drives.
The bands, however, are still seeing success. BTS was recently nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Group Performance for their single “Butter.” This wouldn’t be their first Grammy appearance — at the 2020 award show, the group joined Lil Nas X in a performance of “Old Town Road.” And, in addition to their second studio album in 2020, Blackpink starred in a documentary about their performing experience.