North Korean Labor Camps - VICE NEWS - Part 1 of 7

Uploaded by vice on Dec 19, 2011


SHANE SMITH: I've been to the most
fucked up place on Earth--
The Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.
(WHISPERING) It's totally insane.

The thing is, when you go to North Korea,
you're not a tourist.
You're on a government-sanctioned tour.
And you can't go anywhere outside your hotel without
your guide, your translator, and your secret police.
You're also not allowed cellphones, radios, or
computers of any kind, and are taken on a tightly scheduled,
highly orchestrated tour--
only of the sites and monuments that
they want you to see.

So you end up travelling for hours and hours on empty roads
only to see the Palace of the People, or the Library of the
People, or the Soccer Team of the People.
The only thing you never get to actually meet is the people
of the people.
In fact, you're not allowed to talk to anyone unless they're
officially sanctioned as part of the tour.
So when I heard that North Korea was actually exporting
its own people as a way to generate much-needed hard
currency, I wanted to go and see if I could actually talk
to them and maybe find out what it's actually like to
live inside the Hermit Kingdom.

We found out from one of our correspondents in Russia that
there were actually secret North Korean labor camps
hidden in the depths of Siberia.
So we flew to the far eastern region of Russia and hopped on
the Trans-Siberian railway, which is essentially the only
lifeline for Siberia and the Far East region.

Her bum was hanging out of her shorts.

We're here in Khabarovsk in Siberia, we're about to get on
this train for about 28 hours to go to
the middle of nowhere.
And we're going to go check out the secret North Korean
labor camps in Siberia.
It's hot as shit.
SHANE SMITH: Simon, hi.
SHANE SMITH: My name is Shane.
I'm from America.
We're here with our friend Simon.
We've been on the train for a long time.
We're going a bit goofy.
Where are we going?
SIMON OSTROVSKY: We're going to Tynda, in the Amur region
of Russia, in the Far East to look for the North Koreans.
SHANE SMITH: The thing about this is, it's mind boggling
that North Korea, the most hermetic state in the world,
the Hermit Kingdom it's actually called, is
outsourcing its labor.
But they outsource their labor into miniature North Korean
villages so that you don't ever lose the North Korean
So it's like North Korean-type buildings, North Korean
propaganda, North Korean pictures, North Korean songs.
They wake up and sing the North Korean anthem.
SIMON OSTROVSKY: They bring North Koreans in for
three-year contracts.
After they're done working here, they get sent back to
North Korea.
They spend a month in a reintegration camp to get all
of the propaganda that they've missed.
Most of the workers are over 40 years old, so they all have
families back home.
So they know that if they try to run away, then their family
back home gets in trouble.
SHANE SMITH: The North Koreans are making money to support
the regime.
And these poor dudes are out there in the middle of nowhere
singing "God save Kim Jong-Il" and working in near-slave
SIMON OSTROVSKY: This is kind of the only place where you
can actually have an entre into how they actually live
SHANE SMITH: Question--
are we going to get assassinated for going to talk
to the North Koreans?
SIMON OSTROVSKY: Quite possibly.
People aren't going to be happy to see us.
That's for sure.

SHANE SMITH: Why is it that the best stories always take
so long to get to?
SIMON OSTROVSKY: Because all of the easy-to-get-to ones
have been done by programs better than yours.
He's a prickly pear, this guy.
He's a prickly pear.
You should be British because you're a cunt.
Now, you have to remember that everything in Siberia, almost
without exception, is very, very fucking far away from
everything else.
And even though it was the height of summer and 100
degrees outside, because it's Russia, the heat gauge on the
train had been turned on full and then broken off--
probably circa 1971.
So the experience is essentially like being trapped
on a boiling-hot, reeking, drunken sauna 24 hours a day.
Oh shit, hello.
Now we've got crazy dude here.
SHANE SMITH: It's a very good thing I've taken a Xanax.