A North Korean court just sentenced two South Korean journalists and their publishers to death, the country’s state media said on Thursday. The court claims the writers and their publishers “seriously insulted the dignity” of North Korea by reviewing and interviewing the British authors of a book about life in the country.

This is not the first time the Kim Jong Un-ruled country issues absurd and dangerous accusations against South Korean entities or citizens for reportedly violating its dignity and political system.

"Capitalist People's Republic of Korea" on a shelf. Image Credit: Miami Herald
The “Capitalist People’s Republic of Korea” on a shelf. Image Credit: Miami Herald

The book is authored by James Pearson, a British Seoul-based correspondent for Reuters, and Daniel Tudor, a correspondent for the Economist.

North Korea sentences four people to death for reviewing the ‘Capitalist Republic of Korea’

The book, titled “North Korea Confidential” in English, is based on interviews with North Korean defectors, traders, and diplomats, and depicts a growing market economy in which North Koreans enjoy access to South Korean TV shows and music, fashion, as well as Chinese and American films.

The Korean version of the book was published earlier this month with the title translated as “Capitalist Republic of Korea.” It was reviewed by two famous South Korean newspapers, Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo.

In an article on the country’s state media outlet KCNA, a spokesperson for North Korea’s Central Court said that the book insulted the dignity of the Asian country. The court declared that journalists Son Hyo Rim (from Don-A Ilbo) and Yang Ji Ho (from Chosun Ilbo), as well as Kim Jae Ho and Pang Sang Hun, who serve as director general of the newspapers, were to receive death sentences.

“The criminals hold no right to appeal and the execution will be carried out any moment and at any place without going through any additional procedures as the objects are confirmed,” the KCNA spokesperson said, according to Newsweek.

While the North Korean court singled out the newspapers, they weren’t the only South Korean publications that reviewed the book.

South Korea condemns violence of the North and vows to protect its citizens

A court spokesman said the South Korean journalists had “committed a hideous crime of seriously insulting the dignity of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the use of dishonest contents” carried by North Korea Confidential, according to Reuters.

The court also demanded the South Korean government investigate their crimes and punish them, said the state media. The court didn’t issue any death sentences for the book’s authors, but it did depict them as “bums who write an ignominious jumble of stories told by defector scum,” who also “viciously slandered the reality of the DPRK with such sophism that ‘life of the North’s citizens is capitalistic 100 percent.’”

South Korea responded to the unnecessary death sentences by condemning Pyongyang for its threat to freedom of speech and noted that it would take measures to guard the lives of its citizens.

“North Korea’s threats in response to journalists’ ordinary acts of reporting constitutes a serious violation of freedom of the press and an intervention in the South’s affairs,” the Ministry of Unification said in a statement, as reported by Newsweek.

Source: Newsweek