Vice visits the DPRK
March 24, 2008 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I just watched the whole series Saturday night (fishing out the Brightcove Flash embed src attributes to get a nice couch-viewable fullscreen player) and it's a fun and interesting adventure. Shane and his cameradude manage to video all kinds of forbidden things and I'm amazed they got away with so much.
posted by brownpau at 9:42 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

incredible stuff. does this guy have a rich uncle or something? how else to create something like this without frontline-like financing?
posted by jmccw at 9:58 AM on March 24, 2008

I hope the people that he taped, like the tea girl, don't get in trouble.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:58 AM on March 24, 2008

Episode 12 is the saddest.
posted by anthill at 11:06 AM on March 24, 2008

Everyone at Vice has a rich uncle.
posted by saladin at 11:23 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

And his name is cocaine.
posted by crickets at 11:30 AM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

They get considerably more footage shot than most of the DPRK tourist docos - maybe because some of the handlers aren't yet used to little digicams being able to shoot video? - but still, it's essentially the same choreographed tour, the same destinations in the same order, as everyone gets. I don't feel the need to go for myself now I've seen the tour several times on different TV shows!

And yes, the tea girl is awesome.
posted by BobInce at 11:58 AM on March 24, 2008

Oh god, the last episode -- a North Korean karaoke machine that has "Anarchy in the UK." The host takes full advantage of it.
posted by user92371 at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2008

They did a whole Arirang just for him? I thought it was a yearly event, but he makes it seem that they do it every time a Westerner comes. If that's the case, given the other staged events he was shown, it really isn't all that surprising to think that 124,000 N. Koreans are on call to put on their colored cloth and run through a performance. What else are they going to do? It's been said before, but Arirang really is a quintessential example of totalitarian metaphor.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:45 PM on March 24, 2008

Everyone at Vice has a rich uncle.

Yeah, his name is Viacom.
posted by skullbee at 3:10 PM on March 24, 2008

This was great...

I spent a year in South Korea back in the early '70's , and was able to make the trip to Panmunjong. It was amazing in that it looked like very little has changed on the DMZ in over 35 years...

Nice post! Thanks!
posted by HuronBob at 4:19 PM on March 24, 2008

Two whole VBS posts in one day? Gee golly.

I think of Shane Smith as the fat Dov Charney of video news. He's great when it comes to sensationalism (and/or soft porn). He's even good at gathering footage. Unfortunately, Smith doesn't particularly know what the hell he's talking about—which means not knowing which boundaries he should push, or what questions he should ask. When Smith says "and upon further research," he means "our intern's second Google search." When he says "we had come across something from Al Jazeera," he wants to let you know that he's looked at a controversial website. And when he feels out of place because he flew himself to a country where there aren't any other white people wearing aviators, he sounds like a real asshole.

Overall, this sort of informal, personalized video coverage should be right up my alley. I'd just rather hear from people who have something to contribute: academics, reporters who aren't Nick Kristof, or god forbid, people who are actually from the place they're describing.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:52 PM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have the same problem with this that I have with most of the VBS videos and Vice in general; they get footage, yes, and access, but it seems more like I'm being brought along on tour with a bunch of wealthy bored urbanites who are bragging about the strange and dangerous places they've been, pointing and saying, "Wow, that is so fucked up! Isn't that fucked up? Aren't I courageous and cool for being here telling you how fucked up this is?" Yes, they go to interesting and sometimes perilous places, but it always feels like they're being short-roped to the summit, and the commentary is that of flabbergasted tourists rather than insightful guides.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:20 PM on March 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

footage was good, the comment...was tailored for the 'dumb american,' while shooting for gonzo.

unfortunately, isn;t this one canadian? I didn't understand his nationalist/pro-USA reactions to the Pueblo thing. HST would have done anything else other that moping in insecurity.

also, he does an (un)fortunately good job of discrediting himself:
"Russia in the '30's, or the Soviet Union in the 50's"
posted by eustatic at 7:25 PM on March 24, 2008

Interesting footage, but what an insensitive buffoon the commentator is! What a waste of great access! I've read a lot of North Korea trip reports but none have made me cringe so much. I hope they don't think all Westerners are like that.

Read the NYT coverage of the recent New York Philharmonic visit for a much more nuanced report (though with still images only).
posted by dougb at 10:38 PM on March 24, 2008

For the auditorily inclined, still more first hand reporting from North Korea, albeit in radio format, available from 2600 Magazine's Emmanuel Goldstein. The hour long broadcast was originally aired on his WUSB show 'Off The Wall' in August 2007.
posted by triptychrecords at 8:46 PM on March 25, 2008

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