The quality at BBC dropped a notch on this story of an American tourist in North Korea:

“To be honest, I was surprised with how friendly and warm-hearted they [North Korea assigned tour guides] were… They had their photos taken with us, told stories about their lives, answered our questions – some to more of an honest degree than others – sang songs and had a few beers with us in the evenings.”

“…Initially I had a few reservations about going to North Korea… But having been, I highly recommend that others take any opportunity they can to go and see for themselves what Pyongyang is like – as soon as they can, as it won’t be the same forever.”

The whole thing seems to be a lot of fluff. The author is surprised with how friendly her handlers were to her – despite the fact that it is a huge part of their job. Misinformation begins with smiles. As is required by NK, she didn’t talk to any locals, go anywhere, or do anything outside the handled state tours. One would think this might ring some alarm bells with regards to the accuracy of her experience in NK. While she shows a bit of concern for the locals, on the whole she seems happy with the world which was presented to her. She even recommends that others “go and see for themselves what Pyongyang is like”.

I am being harsh, but I have serious doubts she learned anything about what North Korea, or even Pyongyang, is really like. The evidence suggests she saw exactly what she was supposed to see. Documentaries like Welcome to North Korea have exposed the incredibly flimsy layers of facade in North Korea – Impossible lies being told to the people, brutal control, and widespread poverty and hunger. Other recent NK travelers, like Steve Knipp at the CS Monitor, seem to be very aware of the tourist bubble. So why is her experience so blissfully ignorant?

Update: A much more in depth take on North Korea by an American, possibly from the same tour group. It is interesting how the tour seems almost identical to the one taken by the people who did the Welcome to North Korea documentry. Visit the great sites, watch the children perform, etc. But never interact with the locals, and the country side is quite off limits. He seems to be right leaning, but I have to agree with him on this:

She also said that “North Korean people hate Bush,” to which one woman in our American tour group quickly replied, “We do too.”

As I mentioned earlier, in general I have no problem with people hating the President and saying so. Furthermore, showing the North Koreans that we can dislike our own leaders and freely talk about them in a negative way can be healthy because it is a stark contrast to their world in which their leadership must be revered and can not be questioned.

However, North Korea is a nation in which the leaders use hatred of America to manipulate, control, and oppress their people. The citizens only hear how terrible the American government and President are – they don’t have access to any contrary information that can lead them to an informed opinion. Here are Americans aiding and abetting the propaganda of the North Korean government.

I had heard other similar statements on the trip, but this comment stood out and infuriated me even more because of the use of the word “we” – she was appearing to represent the whole group, including me. I didn’t want to get into an argument, but I had to speak up.

“Not all of us,” I said, and left it at that.

Right after this, I heard another in our group explaining to a North Korean guide how “Bush represents corporations…not regular people.” He was confirming for a citizen of a socialist nation that businesses and the “regular people” are at odds. Great.

Too many people are quick to agree with those who oppose the current administration, without putting any critical thought into it. This ends up being just as bad as the people they bitch about. Question everything, we would be in a much better state.

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