TV review: North Korea: Life inside the Secret State - Channel 4 Dispatches
Channel 4 Dispatches
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Thursday 14 November 2013
We no longer have to take anybody's word for the suffering of ordinary people in the world's most isolated country. The barely believable, sometimes harrowing footage in last night's North Korea: Life inside the Secret State – Channel 4 Dispatches enabled us to see it with our own eyes.
There was the department store where nothing is actually for sale; it's just a giant walk-in set for foreign media and domestic propaganda; the town square where Kim Jong-un's latest speech has been blaring out on loudspeakers for three months straight; the misery of orphans forced to fend for themselves, starving and alone in freezing temperatures.
It's not in Europe, however, where the dissemination of such footage can have the most powerful impact; it's inside North Korea itself. The film featured interviews with several defectors now living in Seoul and working tirelessly to improve life for those they left behind.
Most touching was the couple who float dollar bills over the border in balloons, and their friend Mr Chung. Accused of spying, Chung was sent to a prison camp and tortured for three years before finally being released. He has been smuggling a mixture of South Korean TV and Hollywood films across the border ever since.
What would Daniel Craig think if he knew what Skyfall meant to the North Koreans? Still, Bond is as nothing compared to the insouciant heroism of Chung. When asked if he ever worries about getting caught, he simply shrugged: "Of course there's a risk, but I want to send them in, so I just do, don't I?"
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