Inside North Korea - VICE Travel - Part 1 of 3

Uploaded by vice on 19.12.2011


SHANE SMITH: Right after we launched VBS, people started
saying, North Korea.
Why don't you go to North Korea?
Because nobody knows anything about North Korea.
So we were fascinated by it.
And we tried to get in for a year and a half, but couldn't
because North Korea doesn't let anyone in.
They do not want anyone to corrupt their 100% homogeneous
society that is 100% percent ruled by one
person, Kim Jong Il.

In the end, we just got so frustrated that we ended up
flying to South Korea and saying, well at least we can
go to the DMZ and put our foot into North Korea and at least
see a little bit of it from the South.
Let's go see the DMZ, which is the demilitarized zone, which
is the border between North Korea and South Korea.

Since the Korean War ended, it's been the most militarized
zone on Earth with two million estimated troops on the North
Korean side, about 500,000 on the South Korean side.
Missiles pointed at each other, artillery tanks.
There's three million mines on the border itself.
In fact, there's so many mines that the North Koreans built
invasion tunnels, where they went 70 meters down.
And they're like, we could be in Seoul in
an hour and a half.
Now the CIA and the American army have
found a number of these.
But they think that there's even more.
It's been called the end of the world.
And it's the closest you can get to seeing North Korea.

Getting to the DMZ isn't easy.
It's only an hour and a half north of Seoul, but you have
to go through about 15 checkpoints.
Then you have to go through United Nations indoctrination
session, where they're like, don't point.
Don't look at them.
Don't take any pictures.
Don't do anything.
We're only going to be there for 2 and 1/2 minutes.

We're at the last stop in South Korea before
going to the DMZ.
This here is Freedom Bridge.
Right after the Korean War, it was the last time the North
and South exchanged POWs.
And on the other side of that now, a little further back is
North Korea.

Right here, it's kind of like a theme park.
But as you see, just beyond the theme park, hidden by the
trees, there's barbed wire and land mines and checkpoints
So it's a very bizarre theme park.
A lot of families come, and they put up messages or
prayers for their family in the North that they've been
split and never allowed to see.
So they'll come here and make a pilgrimage and say, OK, this
is what I'm going to put up.
Someone's put up some golf balls.
I think the South's going to lose pretty damn quick.
They're going to be rave soldiers brought up on
Playstation versus the North Koreans who eat grass and
sleep with their AK.

And so you get off the bus.
And you look across, and there's North Korea.
They're like, that's North Korea.
Get back on the bus.
You could start World War III.
They really get you terrified.

They let you into one barracks room.
And the barracks room is half in North Korea,
half in South Korea.
And they set that up so they could have talks.
But it's the only place where you can go and actually set
foot technically into North Korea.
And this is as close as 99.9% of the people in the world
will ever get into getting into North Korea.
And people are like, that's North Korea.
So that piece of concrete--
The gravel is South, and the concrete is demarcation line.
And the sand is North.
SHANE SMITH: No pointing.
Right, right, right.
No finger pointing.
FEMALE SPEAKER: You could take a picture
with the two soldiers.
SHANE SMITH: We're like, dude we have to
get into North Korea.
We have to get in.

GEORGE W. BUSH: North Korea has a regime arming with
missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an
axis of evil, arming to threaten the
peace of the world.
The United States of America will not permit the world's
most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's
most destructive weapons.

SHANE SMITH: We couldn't get in.
We tried through the embassy, through press, through Swedish
embassy, British embassy, Canadian
embassy, German embassy.
And I was saying to myself, what in God's
name is going on here.
So we were interviewing North Korean
refugees in South Korea.
And a few of them had said, just go to Shenyang and bribe
the consulate there.
That's what everybody else does.
So we were in South Korea.
And we said, why not?
We're here.
So we flew up to China.
We had nothing to lose.

And we met the consul in Shenyang, paid a visa fee.
And we left our passports there and, in
fact, most of our money.
And we went back to this North Korean hotel.
We had to stay in one of their hotels in northern China.
And we were supposed to hear back from them at 4:00 the
next afternoon.
At 6:00 in the morning, there's a banging on our door.
And we wake up all discombobulated.
And they're like, we have to go now.
Here's your passport.
Let's go.
And we're like, where are we going?
Where are we going?
And they don't give you any time to react, not one second.
They take you right out from the room at 6:00 in the
morning and get you on the plane.
Shenyang, you got to come to Shenyang to stay here in the
North Korean hotel with concrete beds.
SHANE SMITH: You're not allowed to bring anything into
North Korea.
You can't bring a cellphone.
You can't bring a computer.
You can't bring any printed material, any music.
They don't want you to have anything that you can even
leave there.
In fact, they don't want you to bring any type of camera in
that is too sophisticated, no telephoto lenses, nothing.
You can bring basically a point and
shoot, and that's it.

In fact, when you go in, you have to sign a thing saying,
I'm not bringing in anything.
And let me tell you, if they find that you did,
you're in deep shit.

And then you're flying from Shenyang to
Pyongyang in North Korea.
And then you go, holy shit, we're going to North Korea.
And with the express purpose of shooting, which you're not
allowed to do, with the express purpose of making a
documentary, which you're not allowed to do.
This is terrifying.
So from the first minute I got there, I was shit scared.

SHANE SMITH: The first sight of Pyongyang.
It's pretty dismal.
SHANE SMITH: We're in a hotel that's about 47 stories tall.
Nobody's in it.
There's only one floor with any people on it.

We're in the hotel room.
And we've been told that they're bugged, that they're
listening to us.
I don't know if whispering is going to help.
That might be where it all stems from.
Hello, hello.
Come in.
Come in, Tokyo.

We're here.

Right after we get there, we were taken for our first meal.
And the first time you eat in North Korea, it's a sign of
the very weird things to come.

SHANE SMITH: This is where we go, here?
FEMALE SPEAKER 2: Sit please.

FEMALE SPEAKER 2: Kumgangsan

SHANE SMITH: We're in the big banquet room.
As you can see, it's huge.
There's about 20 women who are getting ready for our dinner.
First of all, they give you about three or four courses of
absolutely inedible food.
It's just matter.
It's like fried matter.
And you're going, yeah, yeah.
But you're waiting for everyone to fill in.
When's this banquet happening?
When's the banquet?
There is no banquet.
Where is everyone?
It's not very busy here.
They realize they've gotten so much bad press for not having
food that they want to show, oh there's plenty of food.
Food everywhere.
And they're carefully laying out the food the whole time
you're eating.
And then as you leave, you notice they're pulling all the
things they've just carefully laid into little tiny trays
that are carefully going to bring back to keep
for the next day.
And you're just sitting there by yourself eating your matter
going, OK I've come to crazy land.

SHANE SMITH: It's really gray and heavy duty outside.
I'm going to go downstairs to meet our guards in 15 minutes.
It's maybe the weirdest I've ever felt in my life.

The first thing you realize in North Korea is
you're not a tourist.
You're on a tour.
You come in.
You're shown what you're shown.
You're escorted out.
You're escorted the whole time.
You're never allowed on your own.
You can't leave the hotel, which is on an island, until
your guards come and get you.
You have a guard, a guide, and secret police.

The first place they take you is to the Pueblo, which is an
American spy ship that they captured in the '60s during
the Cold War.
And they docked it in downtown Pyongyang.
And the indoctrination starts.

SHANE SMITH: They force you to sit there and watch this
indoctrination video about how the American imperialists are
terrible, and they're shitting on the peace-loving people of
North Korea.
And look how terrible America is.
Look how terrible Japan is.
And how we got their ship, and it shows that they were spying
on us and how evil they are.
Really incredibly anti-American.

SHANE SMITH: This is very freaky.

On the way here, there's a big poster that says the way to
peace is a point of a bayonet.
And all the North Koreans are brought here.
So you're sitting there as the only Caucasian going, oh good,
as everyone's staring at you with daggers.
And you're just sitting there going, OK.
Great, I get it.
There's going to be a lot more of this.

SHANE SMITH: So every day around 6:30 in the morning,
our guides and our guards would come to pick us up.
They'd put us in a truck, drive us out to some monument,
and you'd drive for two hours.
And the first thing you notice are, there's no cars.
The villages have no electricity.
There's no nothing.
Nothing's happening anywhere.

We're going down south of Pyongyang.
As you can see, there's nobody on the roads at all.
There's no cars on the roads.
We're at a tea shop right now.
And as you can see, I'm the only guy here.
We're just driving on lonely roads and going
to lonely tea shops.
And there'd be the tea girl who speaks English and has
been waiting for you.
And you realize, she's been waiting about six months for
anyone to show up to sell her tea.
How are you?
This is tea?
What is this?
What is this here?

And she's just so excited you're there.
And you realize, she hasn't seen anyone in 10 months.
And there's going to be another 10 months before
anyone comes.
You want to dance?



SHANE SMITH: Very good.
SHANE SMITH: I can't get that one.

I like you.
Thank you.
CAMERAMAN: Thank you.
SHANE SMITH: This our tea room.
We gotta go.
We're late.
We had a good time.
It's so surreal.
There's nothing normal that happens ever
in this whole country.