Starving North Korea Welcomes Kim Jong-Il’s Birthday - Sean Gallagher - Photographer & Filmmaker | Beijing, China

Starving North Korea Welcomes Kim Jong-Il’s Birthday

Posted by on Feb 16, 2011 in on assignment, Video | No Comments

Men standing on the side of a highway running through the North Korean countryside. 2009

“Starving North Korea Send out SOS for Food Aid” is one of the headlines that reads on the Daily Telegraph’s website this week. This week also marks the birthday of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il. I have chosen to mark this day with a video that was released a few months ago on the Telegraph website, secretly recorded by North Koreans dissidents, in attempt to show some of the frightening conditions in the country. It’s disturbing to watch.

As readers of this blog will know, I travelled to North Korea in the autumn of 2009 on assignment for the Globe & Mail. We had a very limited view of the real North Korea. Our 5-day trip was state-controlled and we were whisked across the country from one official tourist destination to the next. When our private mini-bus passed though rural areas, we were expressly told not to take any photos. I, of course, tried to get some. One of which is below. It’s only a fleeting glance, however.

I had the opportunity to also travel to South Korea a number of times in 2010. The differences between the two countries are staggering. It troubles me when I read about North Korea and think of the conditions that the people of the country must live under. Having witnessed the modernity and prosperity of South Korea, I can only think, what if. What if North Koreans had a chance to be like their brothers and sisters in the South. North Korea is an enigma. Its leadership, a mystery.

N.B. If you are interested in learning more about North Korea, I highly recommend LA Times journalist, Barbara Demick’s book, ‘Nothing to Envy‘.

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