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This video helps explain why North Korea just sentenced a US citizen to hard labor

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

US citizen Matthew Miller, recently arrested by the North Korean government, was sentenced to six years of "hard labor" on Sunday. North Korean prison camps, which currently house about one percent of the nation's population, are unremittingly brutal places, and the US will likely work to negotiate Miller's freedom.

North Korea accuses Miller of being a spy, a crime to which he's apparently confessed. It's impossible to know the truth of the allegations, and the confession was almost certainly arrived at under some kind of duress. But in the horrible world of North Korean politics, Miller's actual innocence is almost beside the point.

The North Korean government uses the fiction of being besieged by the world, especially the United States, as a means of propping up its legitimacy in the eyes of its starved and oppressed population. The above video does a really clear job explaining why making a big show of sentencing an alleged American spy is exactly the kind of thing the North Korean regime would do.

Two other Americans — Kenneth Bae and Jeffrey Fowle — are in North Korean custody. Bae is serving a 15 year sentence, and Fowle has yet to be tried.