Since totally scooping major media outlets with links to footage of a public execution in the DPRK a while back, I haven’t been keeping up with NK news nearly as much as I should. But one thing never changes about Kim Jong Il’s North Korea — it sucks the big one.
Case in point: this report from the LA Times on the recent video footage trickling out of North Korea It’s apparently the work of NGOs and intrepid, possibly entrepeneurial, refugees smuggling cameras over the border. A quick excerpt:
videos have emerged from inside North Korea of a public execution, children begging at a train station and humanitarian aid from the United Nations being sold at a market.
These videos have created a perverse market in which footage of atrocities in a gulag is the “most coveted” and Japanese TV stations will pay thousands of dollars to those who can deliver. In Japan these videos are a sideshow — the news stations are broadcasting them during “golden time” (prime time in America) and garnering huge ratings. Hell, they’re a sideshow on this site, too. We ended up getting linked to by ogrish.com, a site devoted to showing grotesque footage of suicides, assassinations, or anything else gruesome enough to satisfy 14-year-old boys’ bloodlust. I can’t blame the North Koreans for trying to make money. In North Korea people have to do whatever they can to survive.
What troubles me is that we get off on watching the videos from the comfort of our TVs and PCs. The tragic situation in North Korea is not some car crash on the side of the road. Watching idly and wondering if everyone’s OK is unacceptable because we know exactly what’s being done to the North Koreans. Think before you watch.
I sincerely hope that the tragedy of North Korea will end soon, and perhaps this small propaganda outlet can get the message out in some small way.
Here’s an excerpt of the story for those too lazy to click:
Secret N. Korean Footage Suggests Nascent Dissent
BANGKOK, Thailand — With shaking hands, the North Korean climbed onto the shoulders of a buddy to reach the underside of the bridge. As another accomplice stood guard, he hung up a banner denouncing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in bright red paint.
Then he took out a video camera, disguised to look like a carton of cigarettes, and filmed his handiwork for posterity.
Today, the North Korean who says he shot the video on behalf of a group called the Freedom Youth League lives in hiding in Thailand under an assumed name. A small, wiry man in his 30s, he smoked L&M cigarettes nervously as he recalled his daring feat against the totalitarian government.
Everything had to be done with the utmost secrecy, he said, to the point that he and his associates communicated by means of notes passed in sacks of potatoes. He didn’t dare tell even his wife.
“If we were caught, everybody would be dead,” said the man, who goes by the name Park Dae Heung.
The 33-minute tape has created a sensation in Japan and South Korea, where it has aired repeatedly. South Korean human rights advocates say it is the first evidence of a nascent dissident movement inside North Korea.
Besides the banner hung on the bridge, the video shows an anti-government banner in a factory restroom and has one particularly eye-catching scene in which the camera pans over an official photograph of Kim Jong Il defaced with graffiti as a man denounces him off-camera.
The video is one of a series of samizdat videos that provide a rare glimpse of life in what may be the most secretive country in the world. Since the beginning of this year, videos have emerged from inside North Korea of a public execution, children begging at a train station and humanitarian aid from the United Nations being sold at a market.
Among North Korea watchers, there is some debate about whether the filmmakers were motivated mainly by their opposition to the government or by greed. Many of the videos have been sold to Japanese television stations, which have paid as much as $200,000 for choice footage, according to some accounts.
That people are able to make such videos challenges many of the assumptions about Kim’s grip on power. The videos do not necessarily mean the government is on the verge of collapse — the majority opinion among analysts is that it is not — but their existence shows that social control is fraying at the edges.
“Nobody would have dared to do such a thing three or four years ago,” said Hitoshi Takase, president of Japan Independent News Net, a Tokyo-based company that distributed footage in March of an apparent public execution in North Korea.
The footage of the anti-government banners was smuggled out of North Korea across the Chinese border by activists working with the Seoul-based Citizens Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees. It has been widely shown on television and Internet sites, including http://www.dailynk.com/file/2005/01/19/DNKR00001267.wmv .