The never-ending curiosity shown by the West for information about North Korea, its people, government and life inside the isolated country shows no signs of abating. I’ve already produced one long list of North Korea documentaries and YouTube continues to provide more footage and video coverage of the hermit kingdom.
With recent political tensions reaching levels not seen since the end of the Korean War, it’s once again time to turn the Stuff to Watch lens toward a country many people still know relatively little about. This week’s video post has documentaries, undercover filming and even some footage propagated by North Korea itself.
DPRK: Land of Whispers
Just short of an hour long and posted on YouTube as recently as March 2013, this is another film created by a visitor to North Korea. It’s very much a one-man documentary, and unsurprisingly contains footage of all the usual monuments, museums and mass-games known as Arirang. One thing that does make it a little different to usual though is the footage of some less-documented parts of the country including Chongjin and Wonson.
At times I feel filmmaker oversteps the mark a little when it comes to repeatedly filming when asked not to, but only because it’s often reported that the guides and security members are punished for allowing such activity. The film does a good job of showing off some very human aspects, such as the train journey at the start of the film, while constantly reminding you what makes North Korea so isolationist in its foreign policy.
Al Jazeera: What’s behind the North Korean crisis?
Al Jazeera is a reliable source of news and insightful discussion, with one such current affairs program called The Stream recently turning its attention toward the North Korean situation. This documentary asks questions regarding the recent flaring up of tensions between North Korea and the US-backed south.
There’s little in the way of “exclusive footage” but there’s plenty of discussion and insight into what makes the country tick. Most interesting are the accounts of North Korean refugees who have fled the country when asked whether or not they believe the threat of war, which is used as a tool against the population on an almost daily basis.
Danny From North Korea
Absolute must-watch stuff for DPRK nerds and non-nerds alike, Danny From North Korea tells the story of one refugee who fled the country in 2005. Not only is this one of the most interesting videos on the whole of YouTube but it’s also incredibly well-executed.
The film is the work of on aid organisation called Liberty in North Korea who gain access and offer support to refugees like Danny. You’re already wasting time reading this when you can click the play button above. You won’t regret it.
Voice of North Korea Radio
I’m bending the rules here a little, but this is simply too good to leave out of a North Korea article. The Voice of North Korea is the country’s English-language shortwave radio station, with this particular recording made as recently as April 2013. Yes, it’s just radio, there’s no image and the quality is poor – but it’s still very interesting.
The broadcast was recorded in Melbourne, Australia on the 13650kHz frequency. This was originally a full hour-long broadcast but the music has been edited out for length – it’s still interesting, though. The uploader appears to be following the situation as a radio enthusiast and you can find more recordings like this on the AusRadioHistorian channel.=
Footage of North Korea from 2012
Here are two short 15-minute films shot in 2012 showing some of the conditions inside the country. Don’t expect covert filming from a team of undercover journalists though, each of these videos was shot with guides present and aware. That means that most of what you see is what you are meant to see, and that’s relatively normal looking towns and villages.
It is quite difficult to disguise poverty, a food shortage and political crisis though, and even from these short rushes it’s evident life is far from normal in the country.
Alleged North Korean Propaganda
From the same YouTube user who uploaded the videos above comes some very interesting propaganda, apparently originating from North Korea. I only say apparently because there’s technically no evidence these are definitely North Korean in origin, but I wouldn’t be surprised considering the contents, language and accent.
Frustratingly I found myself agreeing with the video about the culture surrounding reality TV above. Very little North Korea has to say about such culture is hard to refute, something many commenters found too. Other docs include a two-minute condemnation of video games and WWE wrestling as well as the use of children in western advertising (below).
Check out even more at the stiofandebrun channel.
North Korea’s Markets
Hidden video footage from within North Korea of the apparently non-existent free markets that supply much of the population with food. This video was originally taken in the mid-2000s and so is not necessarily representative of the current situation, but for markets that (according to the government) do not exist they seem pretty popular.
VICE: North Korea Film Madness
Not a new documentary, or a recent one for that matter. This three-parter from VICE was shot on their past (and probably last) trip to North Korea in which they bribed officials to gain access to the country. This time they’re focusing on one of Kim Jong Il’s most favoured hobbies: film-making.
By some incredible feat (paying a respectful tribute to the Great Leader Kim Il Sung) VICE founder Shane Smith manages to get some limited access to Pyongyang’s only film studio. There’s definitely some repetition in here if you’ve seen VICE’s other coverage, but it’s still worth watching – as are many VICE documentaries.
That’s it for this round of North Korea documentaries. As the political situation continues to stew and the people continue to starve it’s a sure-thing that more films will emerge and hopefully in a few months there will be even more films and possibly even a glimpse at a resolve for the cold war raging on the Korean peninsula.
Do you have any favourite DPRK documentaries or videos? Share your thought and favourites in the comments, below.