Saturday, April 10, 2010

North Korea: a Documentary

One of the most interesting documentary films I have watched is "Welcome to North Korea." The only problem I have with it is that it does not lucidly put North Korea (or South Korea for that matter) into an historical context. As a tremendous complement to this documentary I highly recommend the scholarly work Korea's Place in the Sun: a Modern History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.,1997 ) by Bruce Cumings. The biggest problem with any information about Korea is that there is so little information on Korea in the English language. Most East Asian studies programs at universities focus on China or Japan. North Korea is a kind of exotic topic viewed as a case study for totalitarianism. Bruce Cumings work puts all of Korean history into perspective. I ask that those who watch this documentary do not do so without taking the time to look into Korean history. Korea's struggle against Japanese occupation and the way Korea was divided up by the US and Soviet Union after WWII helps explain a lot about current circumstances in the region.

(I cut and pasted this info embedded into the Youtube posting: WELCOME TO NORTH KOREA
Country of production: Netherlands
Year: 2001

WELCOME TO NORTH KOREA is an unusual tour document from the perspective of a Dutch film crew. In this country like no other, gigantic monuments to heroic leaders are seen by almost no one, deluxe hotels hold next to no guests, and traffic police direct traffic that does not exist. Those few foreigners who do visit the country are told straightforwardly about the superhuman feats of the supreme leader Kim Il-Sung, and his son, the dear leader Kim Jong-Il. Those feats seem to be the subject of every public event. Meanwhile, somewhere on the countryside, scores of people die of hunger and are buried three bodies to a body bag. WELCOME TO NORTH KOREA's filmmakers certainly revel in the exoticism of their subject, especially in the pervasive voiceover. But they also show something of the reasons for that self-cultivated exoticism.

Director: Peter Tetteroo
Script: Peter Tetteroo with Dr. Raymond Feddema
Cinematography: Pieter Groeneveld
Production Company: KRO Dutch Television

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