Journalists make it into N. Korea

Vice Journalists have made it into N. Korea by bribing their way in at Shenyang, China. (via

The always fashionable Kim Jong Il

But we went for it. The first leg of the trip was a flight into northern China. At the airport, the North Korean consulate took our passports and all our money, then brought us to a restaurant along with our tour group. All the other diners left, and these women came out and started singing North Korean nationalist songs. We were thinking, “Look, we were just on a plane for 20 hours. Can’t we just go to bed?” But this guy with our group who was from the L.A. Times told us, “Everyone in here besides us is secret police. If you don’t act excited then you’re not going to get your visa.” So we got drunk and sang songs with the girls. The next day we got our visas. A lot of people we had gone with didn’t get theirs.

We flew into North Korea that night. We were supposed to have three days before the games started, but as soon as we got on the ground they told us, “The games are happening now.” We went straight to the stadium, and there were 40,000 people in the stands, portraying the history of the North Korean revolution with flip cards. On the playing field before them, about 60,000 people did wild synchronized-gymnastics routines. The 15 of us who made up the audience watched from a marble daïs. We were the only spectators. Fifteen audience members for a 100,000-man extravaganza.

It’s pretty freaky stuff. N. Korea has closed boarders, no one can come in or out. A fellow student of philosophy/friend and I were talking about the logistics of having a totalitarian state-run gov’t. How would a totally localized economy work? What kind of industry do they have? What kind of food are they limited to? How does medicine and university work? What kind of access do doctors have to pharmaceuticals? I assume they don’t have the technology or industry to produce their own medicine so how do they get medicine, do they get medicine? How does culture develop if everything you know and are allowed to do is decided by the gov’t? What kind of fine art, music, theater do they have in N. Korea? There are so many questions about N. Korea, I’m excited to read the next  stories in the 14 total when they come out.


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