Green Room

So, what’s it like to tour North Korea with rich/famous people?

posted at 2:16 pm on January 22, 2013 by

Blog candy on a slow news day from Sophie Schmidt, daughter of Google bigshot Eric Schmidt, commemorating her visit to the Hermit Kingdom with her father and Bill Richardson a few weeks ago. Lots of photos and totalitarian vignettes at the link, but this is the one that’ll send a shiver down your spine. The scene: The Kim Il Sung University e-Library, i.e. the local college computer lab.

Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up.

One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in–a noisy bunch, with media in tow–not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.

Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care? Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.

When one of our group went to peek back into the room, a man abruptly closed the door ahead of him and told him to move along.

Happy George Orwell Day, Pyongyang.

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This is why I’ve never understood the point of tours like this. When they’re controlling what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what you’re seeing, you’re really not learning much at all. (Except for how controlling they were, which is no surprise.)

changer1701 on January 22, 2013 at 2:23 PM

If… If North and South Korea ever reunite, it’d make the reunification of Germany look like a sweet, easy breeze.

There is no way the North Korean government would ever take reunification efforts easily.

Tangentially – heard a story the other night about a gentleman who went to Albania some years ago and saw all sorts of mushroom shaped buildings. When he had an opportunity to ask he was told that they were bomb shelters. The guide told him how his father had been a respected Albanian scientist during the Cold War and finally, towards the end of his life he was allowed to leave the country to present a paper. When he came back, he was a changed man. He was bitter and cynical.

You see, for decades the communist Albanian government told their people that the West would try to invade their country any day to steal their nation’s rich resources, goods and national pride. So, they routinely had bomb raid exercises. The whole country would go to these shelters and stay for hours or days, multiple times a year, for decades. The people were very proud of their country. They believed their government. They believed the West wanted to take them over, to conquer them.

The old scientist learned that all he had been taught was a lie, that the West had far more than anything Albania had, that in fact Albania had nothing and the West was completely uninterested in them other than to see Communism dissolved and their nation freed. When he returned home, he was told to keep his mouth shut or he and his family would be killed.

Finally, on his death bed, he told his family what he had seen and learned.

The North Korean government isn’t going to give up easily, and any reunification efforts are going to be a joke unless the NK govt is dissolved.

I wonder that Boeing’s CHAMP missile might not be a most effective weapon against North Korea then?

Logus on January 22, 2013 at 2:37 PM


losarkos on January 22, 2013 at 3:07 PM

This is an improvement. I remember a sequence from a film about NK and the guests were shown the computer hall where all the knowledge for computing was kept. It consisted of stacks of computer manuals along with their supposed translations on cassette tapes. Had tape players and headphones but no computers.

[email protected] on January 22, 2013 at 5:03 PM

I don’t know why she is so critical. Her father, the co-founder of Goggle and ObamaBot should think this their Utopia!

Why, isn’t this what they are fighting for? The all-powerful State?

The mother lode of “Social Justice” and “Equality”?

What’s her beef?

Opposite Day on January 22, 2013 at 5:42 PM

This is why I’ve never understood the point of tours like this. When they’re controlling what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what you’re seeing, you’re really not learning much at all. (Except for how controlling they were, which is no surprise.)

changer1701 on January 22, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Because it works – the NKs know that our media will dutifully gush and swoon over North Korea and how wonderful it is, no matter how phony and contrived and controlling the “tour” really is.

And it’s not just in North Korea – “journalists” in the Middle East, when covering an Israeli attack on a terrorist nest somewhere in Gaza, dutifully wait for the Palestinians to show up and “prep” the latest pile of rubble by placing teddy bears and other toys on top of it, bus in the “grieving parents” for them to “interview,” and then and only then roll tape.

The legacy of Walter Duranty proudly lives on in our MSM, and it’s stronger than ever.

Gator Country on January 22, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling.

“Unsettling” to me would be the realization North Korea is one huge concentration camp run with incredible brutality including hunger, torture, and murder, sometimes just for looking in the wrong direction, or without the proper facial expression, to say nothing of saying the wrong thing.

Paul-Cincy on January 22, 2013 at 6:06 PM

In Theodore Dalrymple’s book “The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World”, he has some fascinating descriptions of North Korea (he wasn’t invited on delegation as a rich &/or famous person but because they thought [mistakenly] that he might be a sympathetic fellow traveler). An excerpt here describes his experience of Pyongyang Department Store Number 1. The book also covers his travel in Romania, Albania, Vietnam & Cuba – if you like Dalrymple, at $4 it’s worth a download.

s_dog on January 22, 2013 at 6:47 PM

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