Thursday, December 15, 2005

CNN: Undercover in the Secret State

Throughout the latter half of November, CNN repeatedly aired Undercover in the Secret State a documentary which follows Korean-American journalist Jung Eun Kim as she tracks down a new breed of dissident in North Korea. These dissidents are using small digital cameras and cell phones to show the world the brutal life inside North Korea.

Images include a video smuggled from North Korea showing a public execution and what appears to be a concentration camp housing political prisoners. In one clip, the residents of a village gather on a hillside to watch the firing-squad execution of a man accused of helping a defector cross into China.

North Korea is the last Stalinist regime, a closed one-party state founded on a personality cult, a rogue regime known for repression of its people and a menacing nuclear arms program, a nearly bankrupt nation, where, in the 1990s, the U.S. government says more than 2 million people starved to death during a famine. Kim Jong Il denied the famine even existed.

Images from the film include emaciated children begging and stealing on streets littered with dead bodies and a nearby market selling bags of rice that had been provided by the United Nations for famine relief.

Human Rights Watch has estimated there are 200,000 political prisoners inside North Korea; Pyongyang denies any camps exist.

The documentary shows dissidents used new technology like small digital cameras and cell phones to get the images and to set up their escapes to China and a safe house in Bangkok, Thailand.

In one scene, a man in North Korea defaces a poster of Kim Jong Il and then flees the country. He tells Korean journalist Jung-Eun Kim he wants the world to know of the growing opposition movement within North Korea.

In the Bangkok segment, Tim Peters of Helping Hand Korea is shown escorting a North Korean who is part of the resistance movement in North Korea. Tim Peters prays fervently for protection against "hit squads" that might attempt to prevent the refugee from applying for refugee status from the UNHCR agency.

Sarah McDonald, who produced and directed the documentary, said, "Some of [the dissidents] are motivated because their families actually starved to death in front of them, and they realized that they just had to go out and seek a way of ensuring that their lives were changing in the future."

[CNN - Undercover in the Secret State]

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