Saturday, March 29, 2008

North Korea: An alternate universe

Hat tip to WorldNetDaily (see blogroll) for making me aware of a fascinating series of short videos shot in North Korea by two journalists posing as tourists posing as journalists posing as tourists (Hey, it's North Korea we're talking here!). Here is a description of the process of getting permission from the North Koreans just to enter the country:
Getting into North Korea was one of the hardest and weirdest processes VBS has ever dealt with. After we went back and forth with their representatives for months, they finally said they were going to allow 16 journalists into the country to cover the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Then, ten days before we were supposed to go, they said, “No, nobody can come.” Then they said, “OK, OK, you can come. But only as tourists.” We had no idea what that was supposed to mean. They already knew we were journalists, and over there if you get caught being a journalist when you’re supposed to be a tourist you go to jail. We don’t like jail. And we’re willing to bet we’d hate jail in North Korea.

But we went for it. The first leg of the trip was a flight into northern China. At the airport the North Korean consulate took our passports and all of our money, then brought us to a restaurant. We were sitting there with our tour group, and suddenly all the other diners left and these women came out and started singing North Korean nationalist songs. We were thinking, “Look, we were just on a plane for 20 hours. We’re jet-lagged. Can we just go to bed?” but this guy with our group who was from the LA Times told us, “Everyone in here besides us is secret police. If you don’t act excited then you’re not going to get your visa.” So we got drunk and jumped up onstage and sang songs with the girls. The next day we got our visas. A lot of people we had gone with didn’t get theirs. That was our first hint at just what a freaky, freaky trip we were embarking on...
After pulling some serious strings, these two men landed in Pyongyang, and were given a whirlwind tour of the country by their guards and handlers; and I do mean whirlwind. They would be awakened at dawn, driven for four hours and shown around some monument or museum. One minute, they would be allowed to film, the next minute they would be threatened with jail time if they kept filming. They were ushered into Potemkin restaurants, Potemkin waiting rooms, Potemkin hotels, and even a tour of the U.S.S. Pueblo, which the North Koreans captured in 1968. I always knew North Korea was a seriously fouled up place to be, but this video series shows a world beyond even my imagination. There are fourteen videos in the series, with each video lasting between 3 to 5 minutes. If naughty language offends you, please note that the host/narrator drops an F-Bomb every once in a while.

By the way, if you are ever in North Korea, DO NOT ever stand in front of a picture of Kim Jong Il!

Good Day to You, Sir


Texas Truth said...

I am going to check out these videos tonight as I am so tired of watching basketball. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Weird stuff! The land that time forgot indeed.


Law and Order Teacher said...

I am seriously trying figure out what I just watched. Was this fake stuff for the benefit of the tourist/journalists or were the NK serious about themselves. I need to go run so I can sort this out. I don't know whether to be amused/disturbed of both.

Law and Order Teacher said...

When I was a cop I stopped a criminal for a check. When it returned that he had a warrant on him he uttered the following immortal statment: "Damn officer I'm dumbfounded and mummified." That' how I feel watching this. I'm not sure we viewers aren't being gamed. If not all I have to say is: Damn, I'm dumbfounded and mummified."