Photos can be seen at the link (which are actually just some of the usual fare we see from western photographers
traveling in the north). However, there are some interesting anecdotes in this story with the Buddhist monk, the bowling alley, and Gone with the Wind. And we should keep this in mind:
One man, a smuggler who fled North Korea, wanted Sullivan to understand that."'You gotta remember, we're normal,' " he told Sullivan. "'We're normal people, we're like you. We're like everybody else. Our hearts break, we have fights at the office, we fight with our wives; we're just like anybody else.' "
All of these and many other anecdotes should help convince us that we need to have an aggressive psychological operations campaign to increase information flow inside north Korea. One of the two major contributing factors for why East and West Germany had a relatively smooth
reunification was that there were many contacts between the East and West and the East Germans had much great knowledge of the West that then north has of the South (though the gap is closing). The second reason was that the infrastructure in the East, though much below that of the West was still relatively much closer to the West than the north's is to the South. There is not much that can be done about the north's infrastructure now since the regime has been slowly destroying it for the past 60 years due to its bankrupt economic policies. However, active preparations for unification can be conducted using the information instrument of national power.
But I am reminded of this quote:
"Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind, it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate - - and quickly."
- Robert A. Heinlein from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long: Time Enough for Love
Truth Or Propaganda? Finding Real Stories In North Korea
A Peek Inside North Korea
National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder went on assignment to North Korea with AP correspondent Tim Sullivan, and came back with these photos.
North Korea remains one of the most closed places in the world. And that makes Tim Sullivan kind of a rarity: As the Asia correspondent for the Associated Press, he's spent about six weeks in the country over the course of two trips.
It's a different kind of reporting trip, he tells host Arun Rath.
"A lot of my time is spent ... gauging what is real, what is fake," he says. "If something is fake, in what way is it fake? Do they really do this job and they're simply acting for me? Or do they not do this at all, and it's complete Potemkin?"
But for some reason, he says, he forgot that temporarily during his most recent trip, when he visited a Buddhist monastery.
"All I could think of was that I was dealing with monks, that these people could be genuine believers and if they saw me as an opportunity to criticize the regime and they were heard — which they would be because my minders are with me always — they would go to prison," he says. "Their families would go to prison. People could die."
So he avoided the one topic he wanted to discuss, freedom of religion.
It was an uneventful visit. Sullivan says he asked banal questions, chit-chatted with the monks, then left.
Then something happened on his way out: Suddenly, the senior monk and Sullivan's minder were waiting, looking at him.
"The monk said to me, we know what you want to ask, and he was right," he says.
So Sullivan asked about freedom of religion. There is absolute freedom of religion in North Korea, the monk told him, and it's your responsibility to tell that to the world.
But of course, Sullivan says, religion has been crushed in the last 60 years. While there are a handful of churches and Buddhist temples, he says, they're basically there to show foreigners.
Not every story Sullivan is told has been scripted. One of his favorite places in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang is a bowling alley called Gold Lane.
The 1970s-style bowling alley — a big showcase during the regime of Kim Il Sung — is a popular gathering place for soldiers now.
"The soldiers take off their shirts, they love to bowl in their sleeveless white t-shirts, showing off their muscles," he says.
The scene, Sullivan says, tells you a lot about recent changes in the country.
"By simply being in the army and living in the capital, that makes them a part of an elite, even if they're not high elite. They're somebody. And they're there with their girlfriends, who can dress in a way that was never seen before," he says.
Their girlfriends parade around in short skirts and high heels. Sullivan says it was basically illegal to wear a short skirt until about a year ago. North Koreans are more plugged in than they used to be — hence they realize how out of date they are, Sullivan says.
There is more money flowing into the country, from mineral and timber sales to China. Sullivan says the tiny but growing middle class wants the same things the Chinese middle class wants.
"They want to wear nice clothing and high heels and have iPods," Sullivan says. "They now do have a consumer ideal, which didn't exist there before."