Wednesday, March 27, 2013

North Korea and the employment of visual propaganda: Matt's tips for truth seekers

With North Korea in the news a great deal these days, I thought it would be interesting to show the following clip. While upon first glance they may seem like regular scenes in the video, there are some special things to note.

When North Korea is shown on TV, especially in Western media, there is a cliche set of qualities, almost uniform across all media outlets:

-- Only show North Korean fields in the non-growing seasons to suggest starvation
-- Only show deforested mountains and the most industrialized urban areas to show poverty and desolation
-- Only show places without colour, preferably those brown, so that a mental association with mud and feces can be drawn

However, in this video you'll see:

-- Mountains full and green with trees
-- Almost endless farms tall with crops and bounty
-- Greens of all shades, and manifold rural scenes

So, why does this happen? North Korea is without a doubt a highly rural, socialist country, but why not show the complete picture?

I first discovered this strange portrayal of North Korea upon viewing American and European "documentaries" on the country, which usually consist of a group of journalists, packing preconceptions, visiting, making fun of how different things are, and then trashing the country in a narration slathered over top. I then started watching actual unedited tourist videos that individuals took on their own, and made the following interesting discoveries:

-- The infamous subway station in Pyongyang is always shown in media as darkly lit, unpopulated, and the escalator (the longest in the world) at a long angle that suggests an assembly line belt shuffling oppressing humans to and from their destinations. However tourist videos show a brightly lit, well used and incredibly beautiful subway station full of socialist art and highly functioning trains. Why would anyone want to diminish this?

-- Pyongyang itself is shown as dark, dreary, and industrial, mostly brown and grey. And yet, tourist videos show lights everywhere, multicoloured, even the odd theme park. True, there is an absence of stumbling groups of drunkards throwing up everywhere in the street at night like in the West, but I suppose no country is perfect.

-- North Korean people are shown as meek, dispirited and tyrannized in the media. But tourists can barely venture ten feet without a group of picnicking Koreans inviting them to dance, to share a drink, to share a laugh, to join in a festival, and so on. And these are Americans, the "sworn enemies".

Ponder what you see, and ask, is this true, is there another possible side? What starts in North Korea extends to the Middle East, and to the very places we live.