One of the best ways you can understand a particular event or situation is through direct and/or indirect experiences. Of course, the best way would be able to experience it first hand, but in the event where such experiences aren’t possible, the next best alternative would be to experience through indirect sources like second-hand accounts in the form of movies and books.
Much of my understanding of North Korea has been shaped through Q&A sessions with North Korean defectors and my interaction with them, news sources and trips to the border of North Korea from the South Korea side (DMZ tours) and the China side (Yanji).
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a North Korean documentary called ‘Under the Sun’ that was hosted by the Human Rights Center in Korea University. The ‘sun’ in this case refers to the North Korean leaders, both past and present.
The documentary revolves around a young girl called Jin-mi, and her journey in getting into the prestigious Children’s Union in North Korea, a union that seems to hold much similarity with the Young Pioneers of China. It documents her day-to-day life and her interaction with her family and friends, but what really sets this documentary apart from other documentaries about North Korea is the realness of it all. Russian director Victor Mansky was brought into North Korea by the DPRK government to make a film portraying the Kim regime in positive light. What happened however was completely unexpected; Mansky continued filming even during times he weren’t supposed to, resulting in raw footage of what actually happens behind the scenes.
Some of the memorable lines and scenes in the movie for me:
- The start of the movie, when it opened with Jin-mi narrating, “My father says that North Korea is the most beautiful country in the world…” and as she says that the camera zooms into the Kimjongilia, a red flower named after the late Kim Jong-il.
- In school, you can see propaganda at work, with North Korean students being drilled with everything that they read being related to their past leaders, (like the very important fact of how Kim Il-sung chased away Japanese aggressors), to answering questions posed by the teacher, with an example of a question being, “Who picked up the biggest stone and threw it at the Japanese scoundrels?”
- The students are also taught how to think and feel, with much emphasis being placed on how they need to ‘learn to hate (their) enemies’/ that they ‘must hate the Japanese, the Americans, their puppets, and all (their enemies)’ because ‘American scoundrels and their puppets want to destroy (their) socialist state’.
And if some of you have questions and doubts about North Korea, and are sceptical by some of the falsified testimonies by North Korean defectors about the Kim regime, I would highly recommend you to watch this documentary to obtain a more realistic and accurate portrayal of North Korea. Some of the other documentaries that you find about North Korea may only present you with a censored version, and a rather inaccurate portrayal of the country by omitting what is actually happening behind the scenes.