News Press gets antsy in North Korea (Lots of words here)

Discussion in 'The Howard Stern Show' started by MilkyDischarge, May 11, 2016.

  1. MilkyDischarge

    MilkyDischarge The "Fuckin' cockroach infestation!"

    Sep 16, 2013
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    for those like me fascinated by the country, here's a good read.
    I'd love to visit. Would you?

    The Western Press Revolts in North Korea
    North Korea recently invited a bevy of foreign journalists to the country, but predictably restricted the press to closely monitored tours of model factories and tightly choreographed events.PHOTOGRAPH BY WONG MAYE-E / AP
    accusedWingfield-Hayes of being disrespectful and speaking “ill of the system and the leadership of the country.”

    Wingfield-Hayes and his crew, who had been following a delegation of Nobel laureates touring the country in advance of its first Workers’ Party Congress in decades, had made the critical error of reporting what they actually saw. During a visit to the Pyongyang Children’s Hospital, the BBC correspondent quoted a delegate observing that that the purported patients look like perfectly healthy children and that the adults present were not doctors. “Everything we see looks like a setup,” Wingfield-Hayes concluded on camera. Broadcast footage also included quarrels with the journalists’ North Korean minders, who objected on camera to a piece that the correspondent did in front of a statue of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s previous dictator.* “The level of control and nervousness we’ve experienced betrays the weakness and insecurity that lies beneath,” Wingfield-Hayes said. The minders also didn’t like Wingfield-Hayes’s observations about the current leader, Kim Jong-un. “What exactly he’s done to deserve the title marshal is hard to say,” he said in one report. “On state TV the young ruler seems to spend a lot of time sitting in a large chair watching artillery firing at mountainsides.” Perhaps the biggest slap was that he referred to young Kim as “corpulent.”

    The BBC’s observations about North Korea were hardly original—Wingfield-Hayes is not the first journalist to note that the leader is fat—but they were made on camera, inside the country, at a most sensitive time. North Korea was hosting a delegation of a hundred and thirty journalists for the Workers’ Party Congress, which was to elevate Kim Jong-un to Party chairman. Kim, who is in his early thirties and took over after his father’s death, in 2011, already had too many titles to fit onto a business card, so the event was more spectacle than substance. The Party wanted to show that Kim Jong-un, dressed for the occasion in a banker’s pin-striped suit and eyeglasses, was a modern professional leader and that North Korea wasn’t the same old hermit kingdom. The foreign journalists were supposed to be part of the show, the modern equivalent of a Greek chorus extolling the merits of the new leader.

    Predictably, the journalists did not accept the roles for which they were cast.

    “You ask too many questions,” the Washington Post’s Anna Fifield was told by one of her minders. “It’s a little hard to work with you.”

    The frustration was mutual. The journalists were treated, as Kim Jong-il would have recommended, to ample meals. Unlike ordinary North Koreans, they had free access to the Internet—but they also had almost no access to the events that they were supposed to be covering. As the Congress opened, on Friday, they were loaded on a bus and taken to a wire factory. Fifield complained on Twitter that she was reduced to getting most of her information from a guy in Utah (Michael Madden, who runs the Web site North Korea Leadership Watch).

    The journalists were housed at the Yanggakdo Hotel, located on an island in the Taedong River, making it impossible for them to stray from their minders. (The press calls the hotel the “Alcatraz” of North Korea.) Most of the places the journalists were brought were the same well-manicured locations that foreign delegations have been touring for decades. At a maternity hospital and the wire factory, Fifield recognized tour guides from a trip to the same locations in 2005. On the Pyongyang subway, journalists were permitted to ride between the same two stops that are always opened to tour groups. They were driven to a place that looked like a farm but was spotlessly clean and devoid of actual farmers. “In North Korea, master of the Potemkin everything, what looks like a duck and quacks like a duck can sometimes turn out to be a chicken. Or maybe even a frog,” the Los Angeles Times’ Julie Makinen wrote, last week.


    The North Korean organizers eventually caught on to the fact that the restless journalists could make trouble. On Monday, the last day of the Congress, they invited thirty of them to observe the proceedings. This was the same day that Wingfield-Hayes was expelled, but, oddly, another BBC crew was permitted inside the venue. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, and Reuters teams were all excluded. Makinen was told that she was not on the list because her reports “were not beautiful.”

    This was not the first time that North Korea has opened its doors wide to the foreign press corps. It did so in 2008, when the New York Philharmonic played in Pyongyang, and again in 2010, when Kim Jong-un was announced as Kim Jong-il’s successor. The tension between the government and the media didn’t spill out into the open as obviously then as it did this time, perhaps because journalists were not then as active on social media.

    The episode underscores the degree to which North Korea, perhaps more than any other country, is obsessed with the idea of saving face. For years, it has been parading rouged beauties and plum toddlers in front of foreign visitors, stocking supermarkets on the tour circuit with products that are not actually for sale in the country, and pulling the plug on the rest of the country in order to illuminate Pyongyang. During my first trip to Pyongyang, in 2005, I mindfully shut off my lights each morning in order to conserve electricity, but when I returned in the evening every light—including the closet light—was switched on. The Party was trying to impress a Chinese delegation led by the leader at the time, Hu Jintao.

    One of the most revealing stories of North Korea’s world view involves a North Korean delegation that visited Seoul back in 1972. The North Koreans, awed by the economic development they saw in Seoul, accused the South Koreans of transporting all of the country’s automobiles into the city in order to impress the visitors. A South Korean official famously retorted with words to the effect of “Yeah, and we put wheels on the buildings to move them, too.” That was more than forty years ago. But the mentality of North Korea—the distrust of the outside world and the tone-deafness to how its antics are perceived—hasn’t changed much since.

    *This sentence has been updated to note that the statue depicts Kim Jong-il, not Kim Il-sung, as was originally reported.

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  2. MilkyDischarge

    MilkyDischarge The "Fuckin' cockroach infestation!"

    Sep 16, 2013
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    Another great one..

    A North Korean farm may not be what it appears
    It looked like a farm: Cabbages were growing in neat rows in the dirt. Cucumber vines stretched to the ceiling in a spotless greenhouse, with an orange tractor parked out front. And it smelled, faintly, like a farm.

    But in North Korea, master of the Potemkin everything, what looks like a duck and quacks like a duck can sometimes turn out to be a chicken. Or maybe even a frog.

    Jangchon vegetable commune was stop No. 1 on Wednesday’s heavily controlled tour for dozens of foreign journalists now visiting the country. If the government propaganda workers are to be believed, Jangchon is a shining beacon of new, improved, more eco-friendly agricultural systems that will help this notoriously food-challenged country of 24 million into a new era of not only self-sufficiency but abundant harvests.

    INSIDE NORTH KOREA: Full coverage

    He and other administrators of the facility, which was remodeled into a “farm of the future” last year at the behest of leader Kim Jong Un, proudly pointed out its many features including solar power panels on workers’ homes, a community clinic, a nursery school, and hundreds of greenhouses for growing food year-round. There was even a hothouse devoted to cultivating snails.

    (Watch a video produced by the North Korean government here.)

    Kim Il Sung, dressed in a gray suit and tie, gazing out blissfully amid a field of green cabbages, was the focal point of the complex’s main parking lot.

    “Our grand marshal Kim Jong Un visited here last June 29 and said it was as beautiful as a picture,” gushed a guide, Park Myong Shil. Kim also visited the farm in 2014, and propaganda signs on the newly built greenhouses call out to workers: “Let’s thoroughly accomplish the words spoken by dear leader Kim Jong Un on his visit of June 9, 2014!”

    RELATED: North Korean capital in throes of '70-Day Speed Battle' to prepare for political confab

    But oddly, there seemed to be few farm workers on the job during the media tour, prompting one photographer to ask a guide: “Can you find me some farmers doing something that I can take a picture of?” Exactly who was tending to all these robust plots of chives, lettuce and cabbage was a mystery. As was how they managed to keep a supposedly working farm so clean as to seem almost sterile.

    Ahead of Friday’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress, a high-level gathering of the ruling party, Kim Jong Un is trying to demonstrate to the world – and his own people – that he’s building a more prosperous, and more powerful, country.

    North Korea suffered a severe famine in the 1990s, with hundreds of thousands believed to have starved to death and huge swaths of the population forced to resort to eating bark and leaves to survive. Shortly after coming to power in December 2011, Kim vowed an end to hunger in the country.

    And in the last few years, food production has been rising, outside experts say. But North Korea experienced a severe drought last year, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimated in April that the country’s total food production – including cereals, soybeans and potatoes – declined in 2015, the first drop since 2010.

    Last year, North Korea’s total food production is estimated to have been about 5.4 million tons, down 9% from to 5.9 million in 2014. Production of paddy rice, the country’s main staple, fell by 26% to 1.9 million tons, FAO said, mainly due to poor rains and low availability of water for irrigation.

    “We lost 500 kilograms of production per hectare,” or about 440 pounds per acre, said Ri Sung Il, deputy director of the Jangchon farm.

    The agency estimated North Korea would need to import 694,000 tons of grains between November 2015 and this October. With the government expected to import 300,000 tons, that leaves an expected deficit of 394,000 tons, the biggest gap in four years.

    “Due to the natural disasters, we can’t grow enough. Last year we were hit by a severe drought, and it was the worst in several years,” conceded Jo, the commune engineer. But striking an optimistic tone, he added: “But from this year, we are trying to produce more crops. Maybe we will not feel the food shortages this year.”

    The natural – and political – environment remains uncertain, however. A recent editorial in the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper in March, following the imposition of new U.N. sanctions in the wake of North Korea’s January nuclear test, warned that “the road to revolution is long and arduous. We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again.”

    While Jangchon may embody North Korea’s agricultural ambitions, the fields alongside the road to the model commune reflected a more humble reality: small clutches of workers with rudimentary tools, biking on dirt tracks to toil in messily plowed fields. There was not a tractor in sight, and just one ox to be spotted along the 20-minute drive.

    RELATED: At a North Korean nursery school, tots get an early education in weaponry

    Some modest agricultural reforms have been introduced to try to incentivize farmers to produce more. Farmers are now supposed to be able to keep 30% of the rice they grow, while giving 70% to the state, said Ri Seung Il, the farm director. They can keep 10% of the vegetables they grow as well, in addition to what’s planted in personal gardens around their homes.

    Although North Korea has gradually embraced some markets as the state-run distribution system has failed to keep pace, rations are still an important source of food for citizens. Hwang Myong Sim, a government guide and interpreter, said last year rice rations were reduced amid the drought. “We got more maize instead,” she said.

    In addition to rice, Hwang said her family of five typically receives eggs, soy sauce, oil, salt, bean paste, vegetables and sometimes potatoes as handouts from the state. The allotments come monthly and are based on household size, she said.

    Hong Son Suk, a former primary school teacher in her 50s, was asked to open her home at Jangchon to foreign reporters to show them how well off she was.

    A whitewashed one-story structure with a blue roof and a dog on the front stoop, it featured amenities including bamboo floors, two chest-style freezers, a washing machine, a stereo, a flat-screen TV and DVD player, telephone and an electric fan. As is required in all North Korean homes, portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were hung on the wall.

    “We are leading a happy life under the warm love of our leaders,” Hong said, government minders and interpreters watching over her interaction with the foreign reporters.

    Jo, asked by one journalist whether people blamed the government for food shortages, reacted with a blank look. “This is not even a question for us, we cannot understand this question,” he said.

    A guide quickly jumped in: “Our people don’t blame,” he said.
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