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North Korea is BEST Korea!
February 27, 2010 8:28 PM   Subscribe

The Vice Guide to North Korea is a fascinating look at the somber, vacant atmosphere of the most mysterious country in the world. (Part 1, 2, and 3.)

Bonus:
posted by Taft (35 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: posted previously -- jessamyn



 
Vice Magazine is a really cool guy. He travels the world and doesn't afraid of fascism.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:39 PM on February 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't know what I'd rather have- propaganda posters touting how awesome things are, or all these fucking flags.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:41 PM on February 27, 2010


Think of it as "all these fucking flags, electricity, the internet, clean running water, food and not getting your whole family shot in the neck for disagreeing with the head of state."
posted by mhoye at 9:01 PM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting...watching the video now. QUestion: Is he putting the people he met at risk by making this video. For example, when he says that he saw the banquet workers taking the food back and hiding it, or when he makes it clear that he doesn't buy the interpretation provided by the woman at the Pueblo. Could those people get in trouble for not having performed their roles adequately and not having convinced the foreigner?

If so, what are the ethics of making a video like this?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:18 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a deal to me.

That Flickr stream is just something else. Are those pictures just being taken by one person, or by various tourists? I would think it would be rather ballsy to return to NK after posting those online.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:19 PM on February 27, 2010


Think of it as "all these fucking flags, electricity, the internet, clean running water, food and not getting your whole family shot in the neck for disagreeing with the head of state."

There are plenty of countries that have all of those things without the flags, and most of them will throw in free healthcare to!
posted by delmoi at 9:19 PM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


On the DMZ:
"This area right here is kind of like a theme park" (shot of kids playing next to a statue of a cartoon SK soldier) "But over there as you can see there's barbed wire, land mines, etc. So it's a very bizzare theme park"
posted by delmoi at 9:25 PM on February 27, 2010


this is the craziest thing i've seen all year.
bravo.
posted by Glibpaxman at 9:29 PM on February 27, 2010


I really thought this was a double, as the original articles/videos on Vice date from March 2008. I remember reading them at that time from a link on BoingBoing that I thought was also here on the blue, but I can't find; regardless if this is new to MeFi, it's well worth watching. I thought it was incredibly ballsy reporting by Shane Smith and crew.
posted by mosk at 9:36 PM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm just about to finish reading a new book called Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. I highly recommend it.
posted by neuron at 9:43 PM on February 27, 2010


ditto to mosk as this is at least 2-3 years old but indeed a shocking look into the cramped destitution of Pyongyang and indeed double-scrotum ballsy.
posted by auralcoral at 9:53 PM on February 27, 2010


Not a dupe, but the link was posted as a comment a while ago.

Very interesting stuff, but I'm not sure how ballsy this is. You can join a tour to North Korea with the exact same itinerary pretty easily. And if you bring a cheap camera and say some snarky things after you get back, you can make the same documentary as these guys. Or maybe I just thing the Vice guys are dbags.
posted by reformedjerk at 10:00 PM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Flickr link, oth, very ballsy. My apologies to the Vice people if they also took the photos in the Flickr stream. But I stand by what I said about the Vice guide.
posted by reformedjerk at 10:05 PM on February 27, 2010


That Flickr stream is just something else. Are those pictures just being taken by one person, or by various tourists? I would think it would be rather ballsy to return to NK after posting those online.

He says in a comment that he's a foreigner who is permanently based in North Korea. I assume he's attached to the German government in some capacity.
posted by cmonkey at 10:05 PM on February 27, 2010


I really felt sad watching this.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:10 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


For an in-depth account of North Korea, written by a Westerner who lived and worked in Pyongyang for a year, read A Year in Pyongyang [previously] by Andrew Holloway. That is the full-length book, spread over several pages; using something like Readability to reformat the pages will make it more pleasant. The brief preface written by the man who helped Andrew get his job there is interesting as well.
posted by whatnotever at 10:12 PM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Vice Guide to Liberia was posted a few weeks / a month ago, and that was how I found out about these too. The Liberia one is better, but both are very interesting.
posted by cardern at 10:36 PM on February 27, 2010


what are the ethics of making a video like this?

Indeed, what are the ethics of commenting on this video, knowing that the North Korean apparatus of state is quite possibly listening?

The "LOL North Korea" hilarity definitely ended for me when I realized, about halfway through, that this video might have profound human consequences.

Though the Budweiser-quality Orwellianism of "National Security Letters" and "No Fly Lists" has sometimes made me think twice about speaking my mind on the Internet, that doesn't compare to the shaking cold anger I'm feeling now: the knowledge that North Korea's system of repression is, faintly but distinctly, causing me to censor myself.
posted by Wufpak at 10:37 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Woah, thanks whatnotever. Looks great.
posted by Taft at 10:40 PM on February 27, 2010


Or maybe I just thing the Vice guys are dbags.

It's not just you. Vice Magazine has turned a nice profit more or less peddling cultural garbage disguised as edgy lowbrow bullshit. They've had some bright moments but if you boil down the whole product line and precipitate out the essentials, all that's really left in the filter cone is blowjobs, coke and a pervasive sense of being too jaded and dead inside.
posted by loquacious at 10:53 PM on February 27, 2010


bla bla bla everything sucks and isn't up to my standards.
posted by delmoi at 10:54 PM on February 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Could those people get in trouble for not having performed their roles adequately and not having convinced the foreigner?

Probably not. Even a place like North Korea can't expect that their propaganda will work 100% of the time. What's more important is that the actors play their roles without breaking character. This is, after all, a show they're putting on.

It's not just you. Vice Magazine has turned a nice profit more or less peddling cultural garbage disguised as edgy lowbrow bullshit. They've had some bright moments but if you boil down the whole product line and precipitate out the essentials, all that's really left in the filter cone is blowjobs, coke and a pervasive sense of being too jaded and dead inside.

Forget it, loq. It's Brooklyn.
posted by dw at 11:09 PM on February 27, 2010


Interesting flickr stream. He seems to have more recent images of Ryugyong hotel, mentioned in comments to the brutalism post.
posted by pwnguin at 11:18 PM on February 27, 2010


Forget it, loq. It's Brooklyn.

I think I've heard of that place. It's in New Jersey, right?

Sorry, re-rail. This is a cool post. I really liked the flickr stream and I'm about to actually watch the video.
posted by loquacious at 11:19 PM on February 27, 2010


He seems to have more recent images of Ryugyong hotel, mentioned in comments to the brutalism post.

Oh, wow. They're finally putting some glass on it. I kind of liked it better just as a concrete skeleton, though. The first time I heard of the place I was fascinated and thought how much fun it would be as an urban exploration site. Or the world's biggest art asylum. Or one hell of a rave.
posted by loquacious at 11:21 PM on February 27, 2010


"Probably not. Even a place like North Korea can't expect that their propaganda will work 100% of the time. What's more important is that the actors play their roles without breaking character. This is, after all, a show they're putting on."

Exactly. If any government officials did watch this, I can just see them nodding their heads when the tour guides speak. "Yes. Yes. That is quite correct. Why doesn't this western idiot understand?" They did their best to educate him, and if he still doesn't appreciate the transcendent glory of Korean Socialism after all that work, it's his own damn fault.

Really interesting documentary, btw. But it's sad to see all those people, especially the children, and realize that they have no better future to look forward to. I hope the NK government falls soon, and their country can be peacefully absorbed by the South.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:32 PM on February 27, 2010


Or one hell of a rave.

The North Koreans wouldn't know what hit 'em.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:47 PM on February 27, 2010


blowjobs, coke and a pervasive sense of being too jaded and dead inside

Yep. Sounds about like Vice. Also, vice. Funny how that works.

I got nothin' but respect when something does what it says on the tin. That way I don't have to crack it if it's not my bag. If your conception of what constitutes vice is different, I guess that explains being disappointed upon opening.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:50 PM on February 27, 2010


Vice Magazine has turned a nice profit more or less peddling cultural garbage disguised as edgy lowbrow bullshit.

I didn't see the New York Times doing a NK feature when Generallisimo Bush called it part of the Axis of Evil. Humanizing the people we treat as Others seems like a worthwhile thing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 PM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Humanizing the people we treat as Others seems like a worthwhile thing."

I attended a lecture in Seoul a while back by a Brit named Simon Cockerell who runs this travel agency in Beijing specifically for Americans, Canadians, Brits, Australians, and other western nation nationals to visit the DPRK.

Inevitably, an audience member asked him about this. Isn't giving thousands of dollars of hard cash for a tourist visa to Pyongyang enabling more despotism? I thought his answer was good and jibed with BP's sentiment. The North Korean regime is going to fund despicable shit regardless of the money it gets from tourism from the west which in relative term is minor. What's important is the humanizing that goes on on these tours, and it's a two way street.

I'd like to go myself but it's damn expensive. We'll see.

Also worth noting, lots of Chinese travel to a casino/resort in North Korea for cheap vacations. I'd imagine the DPRK makes far more money on this than they do with the small number of westerners who go to sight-see.
posted by bardic at 12:06 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems that in addition to all the woes of North Korea, they have quite a drug problem, too.
posted by cmonkey at 12:28 AM on February 28, 2010


This was fascinating, and horrifying - and also just deeply, deeply weird. The word "bugfuck insane" kept crossing my mind.

It's hard to say what's worse about the situation, what with so much to choose from, but one thing that I can't get over is how absolute the lack of individuality seems to be. It's just one facet of the overall oppression, but trying to imagine a country with no writers or musicians, no artists or actors, just the Dear Leader's entertainers - I can't.

Even if you're one of the lucky few living it up in Pyongyang - there can't be much room for dreams. (But, hey. At least you're alive in the greatest country on earth!)
posted by harujion at 3:35 AM on February 28, 2010


It is a DOUBLE, no? Under the new system 14 is worth only 3.
posted by gman at 5:34 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


yea mentioned previously; here's the liberian one :P oh and NK stop lights! cf. oversized umbrellas
posted by kliuless at 5:38 AM on February 28, 2010


and NK stop lights!

Bizarre.
posted by delmoi at 6:05 AM on February 28, 2010


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