A fishing fleet captain was executed in North Korea for listening to a foreign media outlet while at sea.
A source told Radio Free Asia on Wednesday that the fleet captain was executed by firing squad in the presence of a hundred boat captains and fisheries executives after authorities found out he frequently listened to Radio Free Asia whenever he was out at sea. His crime was considered as an attempt of subversion.
"In mid-October, a captain of a fishing boat from Chongjin was executed by firing squad, on charges of listening to Radio Free Asia regularly over a long period of time," the source, a law enforcement official from North Hamgyong province, said.
Authorities also dismissed "party officials, the base's administration and the security officers" for allowing the fleet captain to go out to sea, the source added.
The fishing fleet captain, a forty-something man named Mr. Choi, used to be a radio operator in the military during his younger years. That was where he formed the habit of tuning in to RFA, which he had been listening to for 15 years.
When he was no longer serving in the military, Choi continued his habit of listening to RFA.
Choi reportedly owned a fishing fleet of more than 50 ships. He worked out of a Chongjin fishery base connected with Bureau 39, a secretive organization of the Central Party that is responsible for maintaining a foreign currency slash fund for Kim Jong Un and other North Korean leaders.
Choi, who was enjoying increasing wealth and power, had become arrogant and overbearing toward his crew. One of his fishermen turned him in to the authorities, another source told RFA.
"One of the fishermen sought vengeance for Choi's arrogant and disrespectful behavior so he reported him to the security department," the source said.
Upon investigation, authorities discovered that whenever Choi took his ship out to sea for fishing, he would change the radio frequency to tune in to RFA and other foreign media broadcasts to hear news and music from outside of North Korea.
Choi, being connected with Bureau 39, probably felt confident he would not be apprehended, the source explained. Unfortunately, Choi was wrong.
Having seen how he had regularly violated the restriction on listening to foreign media for many years, the authorities decided "the time to reeducate him had long past," so they executed him.
RFA is a nonprofit international broadcasting corporation funded by the U.S. government that airs news, commentaries, and other information to East Asian countries.
North Korea forbids its people from listening to foreign media as part of its continuing campaign to brainwash the public and to prevent them from getting information about the outside world.
However, soldiers, especially those whose job involves radio transmission, eagerly listen to RFA when the supervisor is not around. Military signalers tune into to RFA before daybreak so they can hear the broadcast. Many defectors also listened to RFA.
In June, a female soldier was imprisoned after a security official saw her radio frequency tuned in to RFA. The soldier confessed she had been listening to the foreign media while she was on night shift duty, something she had been doing for three years.
"According to my research ... most people from North Korea listen to RFA," Casey Lartigue, a director of think tank Freedom Factory based in Seoul, said, according to a report from Global Post. "It has the clearest signal."
And once North Koreans get a taste of foreign media, they find it hard to stop from hearing more of the outside world. One defector said listening to outside media is "an addictive experience."