[KS] Tonight! Two features on North Korea on The History Channel (US), Tue Aug 24

Afostercarter at aol.com Afostercarter at aol.com
Tue Aug 24 03:19:35 EDT 2004

Dear all (but especially those in the US),

If this message can be posted in time, Listmembers in 
the US may like to know that The History Channel will
show two reports on North Korea tonight (Tue August 24);
starting at 8pm (Eastern and Pacific), or 7pm (Central).

Further details are in a New York Times preview, below. (also at:

If you miss this, or for anyone not in the US, a description of
one of these programmes, originally shown on BBC TV,
can be found at:
Clips can also be watched online, and there is a full transcript at:

By contrast, the History Channel website seems disappointingly
bare of further information on either programme (unless I missed it).

All good wishes,
Aidan FC

Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University 

17 Birklands Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD18 3BY, UK 
tel:    +44(0)  1274  588586             mobile:  +44(0)  7970  741307 
 fax:   +44(0)  1274  773663             ISDN:   +44(0)   1274 589280
Email: afostercarter at aol.com               website:  www.aidanfc.net


Blustery and Unfunny Goings-On in Kim Jong Il's North Korea


Published: August 24, 2004

A double feature about North Korea appears tonight on the History Channel. 
The films are inescapably camp. For all their solemn warnings that Kim Jong Il 
has America in his nuclear sights and we'd better get ready, it's hard not to 
be distracted by Kim's batty dictator pomp and the sweeping film of his old 
Busby Berkeley stadium spectacle, staged in 2000 for Madeleine K. Albright, then 
the Secretary of State, in which thousands of majorettes in feathers came to 
resemble a stadium-sized garden of multicolored human poppies, rippled by a 
perfect breeze.         
The nation's songs, too, are always diverting. "We are children of the Great 
Leader/ Let's beat the hateful Yankees." And a classic: "Shoot, shoot, shoot 
well/ Let's hit the chest of every Yankee."But seriously, how should we take 
North Korean bluster? The propaganda is fruity, but it's not entirely laughable. 
And it's not informative, either. Its resemblance to past fascist and 
Communist display should not lead us to conclude that we know what it augurs.Wisely, 
then, these two decent movies don't force the propaganda scenes - or the 
routine complaints about how hard it is to penetrate North Korea - to tell the 
whole story. "Inside North Korea" instead risks pedantry in supplying ordinary 
details of North Korean existence, lives spent without electricity, fuel, 
mobility, medicine, education, information or sufficient food. And "The Real Dr. 
Evil" endeavors to gauge whether it's possible to negotiate with Kim Jong Il. In 
1995, when floods left half a million North Koreans homeless, Mr. Kim's 
government encouraged people to eat grass. Some turned to tree bark, according to 
"Inside North Korea"; others to cannibalism. Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor 
who went into the country as part of a rare relief mission in 1999, reports 
that he found no working hospitals in North Korea. He could do little to improve 
medical infrastructure, but he made detailed notes about what he saw, and 
"Inside North Korea" relies on his descriptions.In one of the nation's gulags, a 
defector named Jih Hae Nam, imprisoned for singing a South Korean pop song, 
demolished and ate a plastic sink in an effort to kill herself. She tells her 
story on camera here, along with several other defectors. "The Real Dr. Evil," 
which originally appeared on BBC, succumbs somewhat more to the cartoon 
temptation, beginning with its title. Still, while giving generous time to Kim Jong 
Il's off-kilter vision of himself as an artist - and the strange 1978 case of 
his abduction of a South Korean director and movie star, who were forced to 
make action films for him - it also focuses on something called Room 35, Mr. 
Kim's intelligence outfit. It was Room 35 spies, according to the film that 
carried out the bombing in Rangoon, the Burmese capital, which killed 21 people in 
1983. (Mr. Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, was the North Korean leader then.) Four 
years later, the group planted a bomb on a South Korean passenger jet and 
killed 115 people."The Real Dr. Evil" doesn't mince words on nuclear matters, 
either, even while showing camp clips of "Runaway," the goofball action film on 
which Mr. Kim served as executive producer. Certainly nothing in world history 
has yet suggested that a daft aesthetic can't go hand in hand with a murderous 
foreign policy. Kim Duk Hong, a former Central Committee worker who gives the 
most relevant interview, concludes of Kim Jong Il: "The nuclear program is his 
survival strategy. He'll never give it up. If he says he will and invites the 
inspectors to watch him destroy his facilities, he will be lying." 

INSIDE NORTH KOREAHISTORY, tonight at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, 
Central time.Margeret G. Kim, executive producer for the History Channel; Bill 
Brummel, executive producer; Greg Dehart, producer; Frank Sesno, narrator; Bill 
Brummel and Greg Dehart, writers; Paul Freedman and Jane McCord, editors; Richard 
Pendleton, director of photography; Scott Nickoley and Jamie Dunlap, music; 
Patrick F. McCarthy, associate producer. Produced for the History Channel by 
Bill Brummel Productions.

THE REAL DR. EVILHISTORY, tonight at 9:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 8:30, 
Central time.Margeret G. Kim, executive producer for the History Channel; Gary 
Mavers, narrator; Jung-Eun Kim, co-producer; Malcolm Crowe, film editor; David 
Belton, deputy editor; produced and directed by Rob Lemkin. An Old Street 
Films production for the BBC.

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