Monday, April 15, 2013

Inside The Hell Of North Korea

In honor of the father of North Korean Communist-cum-Socialist-cum-Juche rule, Kim Il-sung's birthday today, here are some behind the scene documentaries of the uber-secretive and bizarre DPRK. Where everyone lives in perpetual fear, and worships their leader as God.

Most of these documentaries were filmed while Kim Jong-il was "Dear Leader" of North Korea, and although not much is revealed of the dark side of the DPRK- since the ever present "minders" control every movement of visitors to the country- what you do see is just as creepy and repellent. Empty hotels, empty streets, visitors forced to purchase flowers and bow to a statue of Kim Il-sung, perpetually fostering hatred of the US, and people like automatons, as one of the filmmakers describes them. And then there's all those statues and monuments and photos of Kim Il-sung. Everywhere.

Most are under an hour long.

"Don't Tell My Mother- That I'm In North Korea" is a National Geographic documentary by French/American (sort of) Diego Buñuel filmed while Kim Jong-il was still alive and ruling the DPRK.  Diego shows us the little he can of the real Pynonyang, including the dilapidated slum buildings hidden behind the outer 'showcase' facades, and supermarkets- for the DPRK elite- selling American products that you pay for with U.S. dollars (like Cuba), or with Euros if you have them. We discover that farmers don't get salaries, and the average North Korean makes $100.00 a year, but pays no tax. The army is the leading employer.

"Welcome to North Korea", by filmmakers Peter Tetteroo and Raymond Feddema, was shot in 2000. It won a 2001 International Emmy award for Best Documentary and is strange and sad look inside North Korea, including an interview with a defector (who was a propaganda writer for the regime) who shares some harrowing stories.

Another National Geographic documentary, "Inside North Korea", has journalist Lisa Ling she traveling undercover in 2007 with an eye surgeon on a mission to bring sight to the poor.  In this one we get more insight into the whole cult of personality. Lisa's younger sister, Laura Ling, was one of two journalists arrested in North Korea in 2009 for illegal entry. Sentenced to 12 years in one of the infamous labor camps, Bill Clinton negotiated their release.

And this "60 Minutes" segment, an interview with Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man who was born under "Three Generations of Punishment" in Camp 14- the horrific labor camp that houses around 15,000 political prisoners who are there for life. Under the "Three Generations of Punishment" policy a North Korean found guilty of something as simple as trying to escape will be thrown in prison along with every member of his family. Dong-hyuk is the only known Camp 14 prisoner to have been born in captivity who managed to escape and survive.

There are a slew of other videos with interviews of defectors, but these give you a general idea of how wretched it must be to live there.

And there are many who wholeheartedly support the DPRK.

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