[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,
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
TV REVIEWS | 'INSIDE NORTH KOREA'; 'THE REAL DR. EVIL'
Blustery and Unfunny Goings-On in Kim Jong Il's North Korea
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
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
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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