(1) In what ways do you see North Korea as being “developed” according to the standards of living in our country? North Korea clearly has a well-developed infrastructure, as evidenced by the roads and buildings depicted in the film, though the cities are not exactly the most attractive in the world. However, the preference for function over form in the infrastructure is logical, as North Korea does not cater to tourism at all. North Korea has restaurants and hotels, which are hallmarks of development, although most restaurants and hotels appear to be virtually empty most of the time. North Korea appears to have culture, as shown by the people dancing in colorful clothing with flowers. The International Friendship Exposition, despite its purpose, also is constructed beautifully in a pleasant natural setting.
(2) What were the more disturbing pieces, instances, or actions in the film?
One disturbing revelation revealed by the film is that North Korea is considered the most militarized zone on earth, which means that it is capable of wielding enormous destruction on its neighbors and beyond. There were several visuals of countless North Koreans marching and chanting, which support this claim. Even more troublingly, there are several monuments filled with dynamite near the DMZ line on the North Korean side, which are intended to prevent an invasion. Additionally, North Korea prohibits bringing any type of camera or cellular phone into the country, though the filmmaker clearly circumvented this rule in making his documentary.
(3) What were the more pleasant or surprisingly positive instances in the film?
There were some instances in the film of North Koreans being very friendly towards the filmmaker, such as when the waitresses politely serve him, even if this polite attitude was only to demonstrate the bountiful amounts of food available in North Korea. In another situation, a salesclerk, Pun-Yun-Chi, treats the filmmaker kindly, though this scene also illuminates her loneliness. Additionally, while this is not necessarily a positive indicator for the country, there was very little automobile traffic in North Korea when driving out of the city. Another surprisingly positive instance in the film occurred when some North Koreans indicated a desire for reunification, which shows hope for the future. One of the most pleasant aspects of the films occurred when the filmmaker visits a North Korean school and watches the children play beautiful music on various instruments. These students work very hard, although sadly much of these efforts are for the glory of the nation. Nevertheless, it was pleasant to watch the students in action.
(4) Is it the place of Western nations, such as the U.S., to threaten North Korea out of its isolationist and detached political and social place in the globe?
Within the past two centuries, the United States has shifted from a position of virtual isolation to continual interference in global affairs. This shift began during the years of World War I and World War II, and American involvement played an undeniable role in terminating these wars earlier had the United States not been involved. However, after World War II, the United States has involved itself in a number of disastrous operations overseas, which have tarnished its world image and led many people to have strong hatred towards Americans. For this reason, it is usually best to err on the side of caution and threaten other nations only when the United States or its sworn allies are directly threatened or attacked. This has become even clearer after the nation’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are arguably worse off now than before the war.
(5) State any other observations or interesting conclusions you have made following your screening of the film
One interesting observation is that it took Shane Smith one and a half years to even enter North Korea, which is longer than it takes to obtain most immigrant visas. Even more interestingly, he obtained access to North Korea by bribing Chinese officials, which illuminates that the filmmakers’ goals were achieved through bypassing standard legislation. It is also remarkable that North Korea is able to maintain such an isolationist position in a globalized world, particularly since it seems able to sustain itself when it comes to food and infrastructure.