Smuggled videos show North Koreans’ anger at regime

Sunday, November 28, 2010

LONDON - Two videos, shot by group of North Korean “citizen journalists” and then smuggled to the media, indicate a growing willingness among a previously-cowed public to speak out and demand a change in the military-ruled country, a media report said Sunday.

Both the video clips, with explanatory subtitles, have been posted on the website of the Daily Telegraph, along with a video interview of a lorry driver who supplies such material to Japan’s Asiapress International news agency - using a false name to protect his identity.

The citizen journalists gather news at great personal risk to themselves and then carry the footage across the heavily guarded border into China, the report said.

In one video, a woman trying to board a truck to take her to work flies into a rage after a uniformed policeman demands a bribe. She shouts at him and waves her finger in his face until he backs away. Emboldened, other people come to her aid, shouting at the officer.

The video ends with the woman yelling: “This cop is an idiot!”

In another scene, a frail and thin woman is seen scavenging for grass to feed her animals. Asked what she herself eats at home, she pauses before replying flatly: “Nothing.”

The woman in South Pyongan province is unaware she is being filmed with a miniaturised video camera. Filthy and thin, she tells the interviewer she is 23.

On being asked where her father is, she replies that he was dead. The interviewer gets the same answer when he inquires about her mother.

“The authorities no longer command the fear and respect of the people. That’s an enormous change that is taking place in North Korea,” Jiro Ishimaru, editor of Asiapress International, was quoted as saying.

The driver, who supplies material to the Japanese news agency, said there had been a sharp increase in the number of homeless people and suicides, both among men and women, young and old.

“The people are very upset,” he said. “Everyone says that if something like that were to happen again, they would lose all trust in the country, perhaps even rebel.”

Fliers and posters critical of the regime are being distributed and many people arrested for putting up posters demanding freedom, he said.

The messages vent criticism at regional party bosses or officials of state organisations or companies.

A journalist, Lee Jun, said that if caught, he would be branded a traitor and executed. But he said he was willing to take a chance if getting the news out of North Korea brings down the regime.

“I know that if I am ever caught doing this, I will be labelled a traitor, but I will admit this proudly,” Lee said during one of his clandestine trips over the Chinese border to deliver the video to Ishimaru.

“I am not against North Korea or even Kim Jong-Il as a person, but I am against a system that does not allow people to live equally and has no democracy,” he said.

Lee used to be a labourer in a factory but fled into China in 1999 during the North Korean famine that led to the death of over one million people. Unemployed and homeless, he met the driver and said he wanted to return to North Korea to document the people’s struggles to survive.

“I also want to make videos and provide information to people inside North Korea, to show them about the life outside the country,” he said. “They have to know that their human rights are being violated. I want to wake up our ignorant people.”

Ishimaru himself has entered North Korea three times to carry out reporting assignments, once on a forged Chinese passport.

“Living in North Korea is a life filled with difficulties, every day. The authorities are always trying to crack down on people and find ways to put them into prison because that’s how they get bribes. In North Korea, every day, you are being watched by the police and under the threat of arrest,” he said.

Ishimaru said he has never asked a refugee he met in China to go back to North Korea as a reporter, but has trained those that have expressed a wish to do so. Each is paid around $500 a month, which is an adequate income, plus cash for bribing border guards and police officers.

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