Monday 16 September 2019

Pick of the week: North Korea: Life Inside the Secret State

Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm, North Korean lives

Dysfunctional dynasty: North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un
Dysfunctional dynasty: North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un
Darcey Bussell
Fr Tony Coote who walked the length of Ireland
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

North Korea has rarely been out of the news over the last year or so, and the country's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, has enjoyed all this attention hugely. The jovial-looking but possibly not actually jovial 35-year-old seems to have inherited his father's geo- political shrewdness, and surely could not believe his luck when the bombastic but staggeringly parochial 45th US President was elected. Kim was all on for orchestrating the orgy of diplomatic mud-slinging that followed and could not conceal his delight when it concluded with a bizarre love-in between himself and Mr Trump in Singapore.

"A talented man" with "a great personality", gushed Mr Trump, who also announced that the Korean missile crisis was all but over, or something. Recent evidence suggests it may not be, and the president's generous words will be cold comfort to the poor souls who actually have to live in North Korea, a bizarre never-never land where people regularly starve in large numbers across the blighted countryside while state television shows footage of Kim's speeches and the strutting military parades of which his dynasty has always been so fond.

But what is life really like in the rump communist state created by the Korean War? Not so much fun, if this new documentary is to be believed. Over the last 12 months the Dispatches team have filmed North Korean defectors who are in regular contact with family and friends back home. Their conversations vividly illustrate what life is like in a country where every aspect of one's existence is rigidly controlled by the state.

3 to watch

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