Inside North Korea - Vice Travel - Part 3 of 3

Uploaded by vice on Dec 19, 2011


SHANE SMITH: The next stop on our tour of North Korean
boredom and propaganda was the Great People's Library, which
is this massive library that they're very,
very excited about.
And they make you walk the whole god damn thing.

And the first thing you learn is that Kim Jong Il invented
the best, most perfect reading desk because you can alter the
level of the desk.

SHANE SMITH: Kim Jong Il invented it.
And it's the best desk ever.
And you're like, OK.
It's a table with--
You can move a level.
It's like a simple table.

Then they take you to the philosopher hotline, which I
found pretty interesting, which is if you have a
philosophical, Marxist, dialectic problem, then you
can come to the library and ask the philosopher god.

SHANE SMITH: And that's it.
Thank you.

The other thing I found amazing is they're very proud
of their modern music library.
They've got the Beatles.
And they've got Bob Dylan and stuff.
But the music room was completely empty.
And I started thinking about why they have
this kind of place.
It seemed to me that it was used for maybe upper echelons,
or party officials, or guides, or wannabe guards to learn
idiomatic speech so that they'll understand what we say
when we talk in vernacular.
And so you can picture them with headphones on listening,
going, "Abbey Road.
I understand those bastards now."

SHANE SMITH: They made us get up at 6:00 in the morning.
We get put in the truck.
And we just drive.
We drove for four hours.
And when we get out, we're at the sea.
And there's this huge thing, which is called a barrage.
I didn't know what a barrage was.
But it's basically a huge dam.
And they've dammed up the Taedong River.
And it's just a triumph of the will.
And oh my god, it's the biggest, greatest
thing we ever did.
And now it's being blamed for the huge floods that they have
and the famine, because of the floods.
And it's destroyed all their rice growing crops, which they
don't have much of because it's a mountainous country.
They ended up destroying all the arable land
that they had left.

JAMIE: You don't want him to stand in front
of the Great Leader?
SHANE SMITH: Don't block the shot.
SHANE SMITH: I'm going to stand to the side.
JAMIE: Shane, don't stand in front of the Dear Leader
because you're blocking him.
But they're so freaked out about the barrage, that we
were filming it, which is why he brought us
out there, I thought.
And they're like, film it anything more,
you're going to jail.
Don't stand in front of the Dear Leader.
Our political guard-- who we had nicknamed Speedy Gonzales
because he looked like a little zippy guy, and he was
always everywhere--
started to really get mad at us.
We've just been told not to stand in front of the picture
of Kim Jong Il.
Actually, Speedy Gonzales, our guard who hates us shooting,
just saw us.
And he's not letting us shoot.
So I'm just going to talk about the barrage.
It's beautiful.
It's nice.
And he's looking at us right now.
It's freaking me out.
He's threatened Jamie, who's shooting this, with criminal
action, which means to go to jail here, which
would not be enjoyable.
He's looking at me now, so we're going to walk over here,
check out the thing and pretend like
we're shooting something.
They had had enough of us by this point.
At this point, we started to get really scared.
They're like, you know what?
Stop filming, stop shooting anything.
It's totally insane.
One more day.
I keep telling myself, one more day.

SHANE SMITH: One of the fun/sad times is they took us
to a school.
And it's a school for the best and brightest, the prodigies.
And you go there, and you see how great the students are.
And here it's just kids in uniforms being incredibly
amazing and much better than we are, of course, at
So the best needlepointers are needlepointing away.
And the best guitar players are playing.
Accordion players, pianists, the best at
computer graphics, whatever.
They have people for enunciation.

There's one kid playing guitar.
The guitar was bigger than him.

And again you're like, oh these great kids and
But it's so sad and so scary because they've been picked
out and like, you will learn for the state.

And they're learning and learning and
learning for the state.

And then there's a show.
We're going to an art performance now with the kids.
And then we give the flower after the performance.
After the performance, we give it to the kids.


SHANE SMITH: You realize everything in this country is
for Kim Jong Il.
Kim Jong Il likes shows.
He likes Broadway.
He likes musicals.
These kids are just press-ganged into service for
the state to provide shows for the two tourists who are there
at any given time.
And this times a billion is what we were about to see with
Arirang Games.

SHANE SMITH: Got my ticket.

This is the waiting room before we go
upstairs to the games.
But it's, as you can see, a very busy, bustling place.

The only reason why any tourists are allowed into
North Korea is because of what you're about to see.

The Arirang Games, or the famous mass gymnastics, are
120,000 people who work for about two years to do this
incredibly elaborate choreographed Andrew Lloyd
Webber extravaganza, but on acid.
You're sitting on a dais reserved for Kim Jong Il.
And you see the most insane thing you've ever
seen in your life.

It's a history of the Korean Revolution as portrayed by
120,000 people doing a simultaneous pantomime.
Kim Jong Il likes a spectacle, man.
And this is the biggest spectacle in the world.


SHANE SMITH: We just go back from the Mass Games.
And now we're at the restaurant.
And they have seasoned dog, smothered ox rib, which I
guess wouldn't be bad.
And then that's about it.
But as you can see, it's not bustling here.
It was nuts at the games, because I was sitting there.
We were sitting right where Madeleine Albright was at and
right where Kim Jong Il sits and Ike.
We're sitting here just for us.
Everyone's clapping.
Everyone's doing everything for us.
You just sit there, and you feel like God.
Or you'd feel like God if you'd slept.
We haven't slept in about three days, so I have a beer.

It was our last night.
So we went out for our last night karaoke fest, as you do.

SHANE SMITH: Well what was interesting was it was a South
Korean machine.
And it had some programmed songs it it, Western songs.
At first they thought, oh he's just drunk, making a mockery
of a military song.
And they didn't know how to deal with it.
The women didn't know how to deal with it.
They have no cultural references whatsoever.
So when I finished singing, they're all looking
at me like I'm crazy.
And I realize, they don't know what punk rock is.
Not only do they not have rock and roll,
they didn't have jazz.
They didn't have fucking blues.
They never had any of this shit.
There are no cultural similarities whatsoever.

SHANE SMITH: Sometimes I imagine if someone coming from
the cowboy times-- like someone who comes in a time
machine or frozen in ice or something--
and you have to explain to them what an airplane is.
Or you have to explain what supermarkets are.
And this is as close as you get to that.
This is a time machine.
This is 1930s Russia or 1950s Soviet Union.
So they see me as the Yankee imperialist aggressor.
And I see them as the land that time forgot.

FEMALE SPEAKER 2: --by the Great Leader Kim Jong Il for
the course modeling the entire army on the [INAUDIBLE] idea
were displayed at the Korean Revolution Museum.
Leader Kim Jong Il put forward as the general task of army
building to turn the People's Army into the army of the
leader and the party by modelling the entire army--