Inside North Korea

Inside North Korea features National Geographic correspondent Lisa Ling disguised as a medical coordinator to gain access into North Korea. This documentary gives viewers a powerful glimpse inside one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Through personal accounts and exclusive footage, Ling exposes the difficulties North Koreans face while living in such an oppressive regime, coping with poverty, hunger and the lack of civil liberties. I’ve hoped to see footage of North Korea for years, and here some exists for all to see. Fascinating documentary. Simultaneously hilarious, terrifying and appalling. Hilarious in the scale and fervor of the truly insane lies of the leadership. Terrifying to think that a lunatic has a million-men army and nuclear weapons. Appalling in the scale of the humanitarian crisis taking place in that hellhole of a country. They can’t even cure cataracts yet think their leader is a god? It is not clear who amongst them actually believe this nonsense and who is acting out of fear of government reprisal. I found the reactions of those people and the way they talked about their ‘Great Leader’ both amusing and horrifying at the same time. My point is illustrated when a visiting doctor cures many blind patients of their cataracts — but they thank only the Great Leader for their restored sight. Like talking ants. Watching those poor people having been indoctrinated to the point that they worship their Supreme Leader as the giver of all good things is heartbreaking. Why do they believe that? Simply because they’ve been told? Maybe. In the West, we put a lot of stress on not believing things just because we are told so, and that’s why it’s hard for me to understand. North Koreans cannot question or disapprove of the Great Leader or their government in any way. Dissent is a death sentence in North Korea. Those of us who live in democracies or other progressive governments don’t have to fear this. We can say our President or Prime Minster is doing it wrong, and then go home, have dinner, watch another documentary… and then criticize some more again the next day. I served in Korea on the DMZ when it was most tense, and I lived in South Korea for 20 years after retirement. The North Koreans are a force no one should try to deal with personally — outside of the political arena. They are indoctrinated from birth to hate all Americans. Heartbreaking for the people trapped under that regime. I’m thankful for those few outsiders who brave going in there to help others, like this cataract doctor. The film-makers had to shoot under cover, so there is limited actual footage of the country and everyday life, what life is like on the streets. The reporters and the crew did the best they could under the circumstances. So that much of this material was necessarily derived from North Korean refugees who defected to the South, re-enacting scenes from their stories. As for the amount of stock-footage shown, I think that has more to do with the fact that these film-makers were posing as a doctor’s team and had to conceal their main agenda. Their official escorts did seem very distrustful. I think Lisa Ling did really well in a very scary and dangerous situation. This documentary was well done, informative, and offered a glimpse into that culture — I think this gives us a pretty good insight as to how things are in North Korea. It also explains their extreme fanatical hatred of America. These people are so indoctrinated it’s frightening. I’m happy I watched it, and I have gained some insights from it. Documentary National Geographic 2006 TV-PG 50m.

(In 2009 North Korea announced that Lisa Ling’s sister Laura and another American journalist were detained and tried for illegally entering the country, after they  attempted to film refugees crossing the border into China. They were sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison for illegal entry into North Korea, and unspecified hostile acts. Many in the media called it a show trial. The U.S. government made diplomatic efforts to oppose this sentence before their release in August 2009, following an unannounced visit to North Korea by former US President Bill Clinton. Laura Ling was pardoned along with Euna Lee, and they both returned to the United States. In 2010, Laura Ling with her sister Lisa co-wrote a memoir based on her experiences in North Korea: Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home.)


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