Earlier this year, David Guttenfelder, chief Asia photographer for the Associated Press, along with Jean H. Lee, AP bureau chief in Seoul, were granted unprecedented access to parts of North Korea as part of the AP's efforts to expand coverage of the isolated communist nation. A new look at North Korea. WARNING: Fascinating.
Current TV previously & previously, the media company founded by Al Gore after the 2000 election, has picked up the kinds of in depth long form journalism being rapidly dropped by major networks, but has been tantalizingly unavailable for those without cable; until now. They have been putting their Vanguard episodes up on their website and on YouTube. [more inside]
Images of times past: abandoned monuments in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet era architecture in Bulgaria. [more inside]
Maine governor Paul LePage has ordered the state's Labor Department to remove a mural he says is too pro-labor. He has also declared several of the building's conference room names to have "one-sided decor." This was reportedly at the behest of anonymous businesses who complained of a pro-labor bias. [more inside]
Filming in North Korea is a bit of an iffy task, and you never know when a minder may decide to confiscate your memory cards or camera. That was a risk I didn’t want to take, so I decided not to reveal to them the fact that my 5D was capable of shooting video. I taped up the back screen with black electrical tape. Pyongyang Style – North Korean Haircut
In this episode of Al-Jazeera's 101 East, Lynn Lee and James Leong become the first foreigners to film inside Pyongyang's University of Cinematic and Dramatic Arts. [more inside]
This flickr user collection offers a look into North Korea, complete with translations of propaganda murals and cultural background on the images, plus two collections of old postcards.
Flipping Off the North Koreans, 1968. The crew deduced that the North Koreans didn’t know what the finger meant. In the subsequent propaganda photos of the crew, their middle fingers were firmly extended to the cameraman. When the North Koreans questioned, the crew described it as the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” (via Andrew Sullivan.)
Shin Sang-ok (1926 - 2006) was a Korean movie writer, director and producer, who studied film in Japan and returned to South Korea, where he gained fame and became the uncontested leader of the film industry in the 1960s, in a time when regulations on the industry limited other studios. In the 1970s under the Fourth Republic of South Korea, the film industry was even further limited, which lead to Shin's studio being closed. Things went from bad to worse, when "the Orson Welles of South Korea" was kidnapped by request of Kim Jong Il, the son of North Korea's dictator, Kim Il Sung. The reason? Kim Jong Il wanted the nation's film industry to promote the virtues of the Korea Workers' Party to a world-wide audience. After being imprisoned for four years, Shin was reunited with his ex-wife (who was also a captive of North Korea) and the given relative freedom, producing seven films in North Korea. While setting up a distribution deal to share Kim Jong Il's vision with a broader audience for a Godzilla-like monster movie, Shin and his wife escaped and sought political asylum in the United States. Their freedom was possible because of that last film for Kim, entitled Pulgasari. But Shin's life in movies was not over yet. [more inside]
The Korean DMZ (pdf) / PLZ has been a hot tourist attraction for years, featuring must-see sites like the Third Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory, the Dora Mountain Train Station, the Freedom Bridge and the Imjingak Tourist Site, complete with its statue of Harry Truman. And now, South Korea's border with North Korea -- the most heavily militarized border on Earth, -- will be patrolled by killer robots. [more inside]
The people of 4chan are at it again. They are now trying to hijack the voting for Justin Bieber's next touring destination. Their goal: to send him to North Korea. There are now almost half a million votes to send Bieber to the secretive communist nation.
Got a tough software project, but can't afford to pay for domestic talent? India, China, and Russia too expensive? Why not outsource to sunny North Korea? [more inside]
'The younger Kim is only 27 years old and is apparently fond of shooting things, having majored artillery in Kim Il-Sung University.'
On March 26, 2010, the ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, exploded and sunk, killing at least forty sailors. On May 19, an international investigation team concluded that a North Korean torpedo sunk the Cheonan. What does this mean for the Koreas and the world? It's not clear, but Ask a Korean provides a brief, yet historically contextualized dossier on this issue. [more inside]
That's My Uncle Kim "A song about everyone's favourite kooky, incorrigible uncle: Kim Jong-Il" (SLYT) (Previous)
The Big Picture displays recent photos released by the KCNA of Kim Jong-il giving "on-the-spot" field guidance.
Happy birthday, Comrade Kim Pepe Escobar's series in the Asia Times (parts 1, 2, 3) reveals how everything we know about North Korea is wrong.
Last December, the government of North Korea unexpectedly revalued its internal currency, the North Korean won, at a rate of 100-to-1 and capped the amounts that residents could exchange old currency at 300,000 won (approx. $90 U.S. on the black market). This effectively wiped out many peoples' savings and killed the nascent market economy that had begun to emerge after a series of economic reforms starting in July, 2002. Professor Rüdiger Frank of the University of Vienna argues that while it represents a temporary victory for the North Korean government, this move may ultimately lead to the end of North Korean socialism. [Recently here]
"The most important questions regarding North Korea are the ones least often asked: What do the North Koreans believe? How do they see themselves and the world around them?"
Hitch reads up on North Korea: "I have recently donned the bifocals provided by B.R. Myers in his electrifying new book The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, and I understand now that I got the picture either upside down or inside out. The whole idea of communism is dead in North Korea, and its most recent "Constitution," "ratified" last April, has dropped all mention of the word. The analogies to Confucianism are glib, and such parallels with it as can be drawn are intended by the regime only for the consumption of outsiders. Myers makes a persuasive case that we should instead regard the Kim Jong-il system as a phenomenon of the very extreme and pathological right. It is based on totalitarian "military first" mobilization, is maintained by slave labor, and instills an ideology of the most unapologetic racism and xenophobia." Read the first chapter here.
On Christmas day, Robert Park walked over the frozen Tumen river from China and into North Korea. He did an interview that was to be released when he had crossed over.
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
North Korea's "150 Day Battle" has been extended for another 100 days. The initiative was ostensibly aimed at ramping up internal production in the face of growing external trade reductions. Some analysts think it's a ploy, combined with recent missile launches , to solidify the base for the next regime.
North Korea’s Dollar Store - Office 39, North Korea’s billion-dollar crime syndicate, pays for Kim Jong Il’s missiles and cognac. Why did the Bush White House choose not to shut it down? [via] [more inside]
Bill Clinton makes secret trip to North Korea, wins pardon and apparent release of two captive US journalists. Jailed reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, employees of Al Gore's Current TV, were arrested for spying in March and had recently been sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp. The remarkable development is likely to boost to Clinton's battered image. [more inside]
Kōfuku-no-Kagaku (幸福の科学), also called Happy Science, is a relatively new religious and spiritual movement, founded in Japan in October 1986. The organization is gaining ground world-wide, with the international headquarter office in central Tokyo, 6 local temples located in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seoul and Taiwan, and an additional 37 local offices around the world. The group's leader, Master Ryuho Okawa, has is not limiting the scope of the movement to politics, and in May 2009 the Happiness Realization Party was formed, with over 300 HRP candidates running for the coming general election. To provide background on the religion and political movement, here is a little investigation of Happy Science by MeFi's own shii [via mefi projects] [more inside]
North Korea's first TV advertisement for beer (BBC article with video).
North Korea's concentration camps reportedly contain over half a million citizens, and is possibly one of the worst cases of systematic human rights abuses occurring in the world today. Ahn Myong Chol, an ex-prison guard, describes the conditions of the inmates of Camp 22, in objective and chilling detail. On medical experiments being performed on prisoners: "....the glass chamber has 3 main subdivisions: one is for blood experiments, another is for poison gas, and the third is for suffocation gas. 3 or 4 people, normally a family, are experimented on. The scientists sit around the edge and watch from above...". [more inside]
Kim Jong Il has reportedly chosen an heir to his throne. And like a lot of stories involving North Korea, there's a mix of world-ending gloom and mad-cap hilarity. Meet the mysterious Kim Jong-un [more inside]
North Korea has a reputation as one of the most secretive, authoritarian, repressive countries in the world. But that doesn't stop Curtis Melvin, a PhD student at George Mason University, from trying to shine some light into the country's dark corners l His North Korea Economy Watch site, which includes The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth l Gulags, Nukes and a Water Slide: Citizen Spies Lift North Korea's Veil.
North Korea announces it will no longer abide by the ceasefire that ended the Korean war. Previously. [more inside]
North Korea has confirmed that it has performed another nuclear test. Soth Korea measurements say it was magnitude 4.5, compared to 3.6 for the last one. USGS says 4.7 this time. Last year, Joe Biden said that within months of his inauguration, hostile foreign powers would attempt to test Obama. Looks like he was right.
This week's New York Times Punch Awards notification brought the news that award winning Boston Globe's The Big Picture was developed and promoted largely on Alan Taylor's own time. The most recent entry is a look at life from the other side of the border by Peering Into North Korea.
In September of 2008, two Austrians traveled 13,000km by rail from Vienna to Pyongyang - without asking permission and going through the official Koran travel agency. [more inside]
"You do understand that you are entering a dangerous area, and that the possibility of injury or death is real."
North Korea's Kim suffers 'serious' setback from stroke. When Will North Korea Collapse? Should it happen, US, South Korean, and Chinese troops could charge into North Korea to secure its nuclear facilities-and confront each other, says RAND corp and others. However it is "far from certain that the regime would collapse like a puffball", and even John Bolton thinks The World Shouldn't Fear The Collapse of North Korea . But it's all probably a mugs game, In ’97, U.S. Panel Said North Korea Could Collapse in 5 Years, and in 2004 Talk was Swirling of a North Korean Regime Collapse.
Photos from North Korea. Photographs from a 2 week long trip to North Korea by photographer Eric Lafforgue.
According to the English language edition of the Asahi Shimbun, an Israeli airstrike against Syria last September targeted a nuclear-related facility that was under construction with technical assistance from North Korea, according to Israel's prime minister...It is apparently the first time that the intended target had been disclosed to the head of a foreign government. Original Japanese link here. Via the wonderful Marmot's Hole. [more inside]
70 year old Pak Doo-Ik will lead North Korea's prestigious Olympic torch bearers to Beijing this summer. In the 1966 World Cup at Middlesborough, Pak scored the goal that lead his team to a stunning 1-0 upset win over Italy (video). Pak Doo-Ik and the team returned home as heroes, but ultimately fell under the suspicion of North Korean leadership. The team underwent "mental re-education" and were exiled, Pak Doo-Ik spending ten years as a forest laborer. Dear Leader Kim Jong-il later allowed Pak to coach North Korea's national soccer team, and a fascinating 2002 BBC documentary brought Pak Doo Ik back to the international stage.
ViceTV takes a relaxing North Korean vacation (video, in 14 parts).
Playing with Dictators - an editorial on the New York Philharmonic's decision to play a concert in North Korea. One musician's account of the performance.
Feeling nostalgic for those old school Soviet shindigs? Westerners are welcome to North Korea's Arirang Mass Games. Tickets are on sale now. Will tourist dollars/euros be the undoing of North Korea?
Tentative agreement reached with North Korea. The six-party talks in Beijing finally succeeded: under the agreement, North Korea will close its main nuclear reactor within 60 days, in exchange for food, fuel aid, and steps towards normal relations with the US and Japan. The deal still has to be approved by the six governments. Analysis from the New York Times. Background from Richard Bernstein in the New York Review of Books, and from the International Crisis Group. Previously.
From 1977 to 1983, between 16-70 Japanese citizens were abducted in their home country by agents of the North Korean government. 13-year-old Megumi Yokota was the youngest. This is her story.
'We don't talk to evil' - in 2003, during the term of former president Khatami, Iran contacted the United States, and offered to end support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and help stabilize Iraq. Cheney said no. Skip forward to the present, and Iran are having tea and crumpets with North Korea.
Kim Jong Il's Ringtones and Wallpaper and other fine, fashionable accessories for your digital lifestyle. (via waxy.org.)
Newsfilter: North Korea's response to a toothless UN resolution may be a second nuclear test. With military solutions pretty much off the table, it may be up to rival factions within the DPRK to topple the regime. NK coups have been discussed here before, and the end result may not be as pretty as one would hope, but maybe this time the Chinese have had enough.