Vice in North Korea


No music. Check. No printed materials. Check. No cameras or PCs. Check.

A shaky shot of the in-flight checklist of things not to bring on your trip to North Korea is just a snippet of the exclusive video coverage offered by ‘The Vice Guide to North Korea,’ a travel special by New York-based fringe media group, Vice.

The initiative, according to their website, features ‘…correspondents from VBS and Vice magazine (who) are dispatched around the world to visit the planet’s most dangerous and weird destinations.’ And recent editions have included coverage of off-the-beaten-track destinations including Liberia, Bulgaria and Chernobyl city.

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In the case of North Korea, it was Vice co-founder Shane Smith who a couple of years ago, along with a crew, made it into the mysterious DPRK through some slightly questionable means (including receiving tips from North Korean refugees in the ROK and then entering the country through Shenyang, China in the middle of the night with purchased assistance.)

Highlights include them staying in a 47-storey hotel in Pyongyang that, according to Smith had ‘nobody in it’ and was likely bugged, eating ‘3 or 4 courses of fried matter’ in a massive banquet room with about 20 female attendants and no other diners and driving along miles and miles of empty road through villages with no electricity to visit monuments–all the while accompanied by a guard, a guide and secret police.

Vice-in-North-Korea-e1267521342424Smith could be accused of being quite scathing about the trip–his commentary throughout includes quotes like, ‘I’ve come to crazy land,’ ‘This is very freaky,’ and ‘There is nothing normal that happens ever in this country.’

However, though the expedition was less a holiday than an unsettling experience, I watched the whole thing with utter fascination and was thankful for Smith’s opinions. To put it simply, it kept me as a viewer, from being swept away by it all.

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