A year ago, American tourist Erick Tseng released YouTube videos of his tour of North Korea, tours which are incidentally becoming more popular among westerners.
Throughout the videos, Tseng’s generally condescending attitude is on full display. The hotel is too ‘1970s’ to be taken seriously, the tour guide’s historical facts are too outlandish to be believed, a car dealership Tseng visits is deemed to be totally inauthentic.
I am not personally blaming Tseng for going to North Korea with a sceptical attitude. He was clearly conditioned over many years by a mainstream media narrative about North Korea.
The truth about North Korea is far more subtle than extremists on either side would have one believe.
It is not a blood-soaked, starvation ridden hell-hole that many in the west would pretend to believe.
Nor is North Korea an open society as much of the rest of the world would understand it. It is often sheltered and parochial to the point of being overly insular and detached from broader world realities.
One thing that is striking about Tseng’s videos is how clean, normal and at times beautiful North Korea is. This statement does not represent an indictment of nor praise for North Korea’s political system nor of its social environment. It is simply an objective fact from videos taken, ones that include scenes the authorities clearly disapproved of.
No one with a real persepctive on world events thinks that America plans to bomb North Korea (if this indeed is the plan) in order to ‘free’ North Korans from a world without Facebook, Nike shoes, McDonald’s and Cadillacs.
If an attack of some sort takes place it, will be due to a combination of geo-political gamesmanship, economic colonialism and perhaps even an attempt to alter the political dynamic in South Korea.
But even if one was so naieve to think that the US would bomb North Korea in order to ‘free’ the people. Does North Korea really seem that hellish? The images in Tseng’s videos show cleaner streets than in most western cities and if distortion of historical fact is an international crime; CNN is a rogue state.
Now, watch and see one man’s take on visiting North Korea.