The North Korean State Security Ministry, as well as the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, was alerted that an embassy official was watching a forbidden K-drama program in Beijing, and they sprung into action.
Now, every single embassy employee, as well as their family members, are under intense scrutiny as Pyongyang searches for ideological impurities on their computers, cell phones, and other devices.
Korea Joongang Daily, a subsidiary of one of South Korea's biggest papers, reported that "myriad" transgressions have been discovered in the probe. Among other things, Pyongyang officials have inspected the status of portraits of former North Korean dictators Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, which are invariably hung in the embassies.
"They first take a look at the portraits, because any hint of their mismanagement would be a sign the embassy has gone completely off track," said a former North Korean diplomat to Korea Joongang Daily.
The diplomat in question led the embassy's light industry section, a highly influential position.
K-dramas have played an understated but significant role in North Korean politics. Watching them is strictly forbidden, with some even facing execution upon discovery. Many defectors were inspired to risk their lives by attempting to flee from the Hermit Kingdom when they were first exposed to South Korea's ever-popular live action dramas.
The highest profile North Korean defector in recent memory is Thae Yong-ho, who served as the DPRK's deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom. Some consider him the highest ranking defector in North Korean history — and in an interview in December 2016, he said that everyone he knew in North Korea had seen a k-drama at some point.
"The two things the regime is failing to control are drugs and South Korean dramas," Thae said.
"The North Korean system can only last as long as it can completely block off all information from the outside world," he added. "When the day comes when people have access to the information that has been censored, North Korea will come crumbling down like an earthen wall soaking wet."