Michael Palin in North Korea EP1
Can. There be a country, more, shrouded. In mystery, and fear the, North Korea. It's. A brutal dictatorship, many, say its intent, on nuclear, war a. Dystopian. Land of military. Parades, repression. And, barbaric, prison camps. But, I've been given an unprecedented. Opportunity. To. Go beyond, the politics, and. Visit. The country 25, million, people call, home. To. Travel 1,300. Miles across. A land of colorful, cities. And. Epic. Landscapes. To. Understand, the so called Hermit, Kingdom. I. Want. To engage with this people my, name is Michael. Michael. Palin at. A unique, time in the country's history there. May be a change in relations, between your. Side and America. Filming. Under supervision I'll need to tread carefully a good, leader should be able to deal. With criticism and, that's what we are so different from you. But. This will turn out to be the most revealing, journey, of. My life. My. Journey begins, in Beijing, China is. One of North Korea's few allies in the world and, more. Importantly for, me it's, the place where you can catch an overnight, train to its capital, Pyongyang I, have. To find Kay. K-27. With the platform, oh there. We are I see it. Four. Five. Six, seven. -. Must be download. For. Them to. Find. Another one like it. Just. Follow everyone I, presume. They're all getting the same train, most. Of my fellow passengers a Chinese. That, are traveling to Dandong city, on the border with North Korea. Train. Is down here now was - was, for it's. Now six, and. Coaches. One to sixteen. Well. I, don't, ordeal actually. Getting onto the train. We're. On the move and get, all tired man. I've, even got a spittoon. You. Never think about on Burton. This, train will take me 500. Miles to, the North Korean border. After. A quick change of train I'll then, travel a further two hundred miles to Pyongyang. I'm about to enter a country, that has essentially, been cut off from the outside world, for. 70 years. Well, it's, quite, different. Going, to North Korea I think though anywhere. Else I've been have been to one country with it being quite so much of a sort of black. Out on information, so. What. I hope is that all there will be, controlled. I know that all our movements on there but, we'll get beyond that and actually. Get. To know or, meet or just observe the. People themselves the, the. North Koreans, who. Live down work there and play there and bring up their children there, and go to school there you know if we can do that if I can get beyond, the. Politics, beyond, if you like a very strict regime, I want, to find hopefully the, people who live there see, us as fellow, human beings. Because. That's the point of traveling and going around the world is. To see that people actually am much much, closer to us than we think. After. A bumpy night. The train pulls into Dandong, station. Where. Now only a few hundred meters from the border. After. Carrying Chinese customs, it's, time to board the North Korean train that. Will take me to Pyongyang. The. Merchandise, be loaded. Nothing. Like going. This, is it a. Sin. Oh Korean friendship, really is, all that separates us from the DPRK. Democratic. People's Republic of, Korea. As, we cross the Yellow River a stark. Difference between, these two countries becomes. Clear. Coming, in to see. The. Chinese shores full of table. So, it is an explore that, contrast, is amazing. High-rise. Chinese. Northern. Shore and then southern shore. Completely, different feel to it much more open low-rise. Suppose. Now we are more. Than halfway across the river so we're in North. Korea. Immediately. Everything, looks different it's. As if we've stepped, back in time I. Security. North, Korean military guards, on the platform, of synergy, station remind. Me that I'm entering a country under, totalitarian. Rule. And, as. They prepare to board the train to, check our visas and passports we. Get our first taste of North Korean, Authority, we're. Told to turn off the camera. One. Hour later I'm allowed, onto the platform, a, lot. Of papers, have to be gone through and signed one man would come in and take down, all the details but. People are very impressive big hats would come in and ask, for exactly the same details of questions I didn't expect like did, I have a Bible with me, and.
Normally If so who yes absolutely, I'm a good Christian but no that's the wrong answer you say I have a Bible now they don't want to know about that so. I'm. Settling, but, it's intriguing at the same time I, mean. They have my passport I can't, leave. I've. Just been kept slightly, unsettled and this is probably. Deliberate. From, now on my, fate lies in the hands of the North Koreans. But. After a tense wait were, allowed on our way to Pyongyang. People. To. Be smashing, their bicycles, in the river and. Alongside. Here, by the railway line no. Cultivated. People. Looks. Like me not suitable ground just be dug and something has been planted with. No. Internet, or international. Phone signal, I now, effectively. Cut off from, the outside world. And. The world I've entered seems rather. Strange. Haven't. Seen a car. In. Almost developing, bicycles. Road. Empty. Empty, of cars that. Seems. Us a different, time. Korea. Was divided in 1945. After the Second World War, and, as being lively governed, on communist, principles, ever since, closed. Off from the outside world, and now under strict international, sanctions it's, seen little Economic Development. When. It comes to the dining car it. Looks like nothing has changed, since the 1950s. Table. For one lunch. Please, thank. You thank you. Hello. I'm. Soaked a meaning say. Twice look. What I've got as a result of speaking. Korean. That's, beautiful, isn't it hmm. I think this must be the kimchi. Made. From fermented cabbage. And, chilies kimchi. Is a staple, of the North Korean time. Wow. It's, what fierce. After. The kimchi I think you need something selected but. At the fire. There's. A video. Playing and this. Mainly, missiles, on it. Various. Shots. Of the great leaders and applause. Lunch. With. A side order of North, Korean propaganda. Eventually, after six long hours. We, travel, to Pyongyang. I'm told this is where I'll be met by the two guys who, are we making sure I don't step out of line in the next two weeks. Oddly. The threatening, minders I was expecting. To. Be. Cool. With. Your. Michael. As, we drive to the hotel I find, it hard to believe I'm finally, here. I know, that there will be restrictions, on what I see, but. Despite this I'm. Hoping Pyongyang, will give me a greater understanding of, a country once, described, as being on the axis, of evil. My. First morning in Pyongyang, and the, world's most unusual wake-up. Call I. First. Said this I think five o'clock this morning. It's. Like music culminates from the whole. City. I don't know where it's coming from the. Source. Of speakers, it's just this suffusion. Of sound. Just. One Minister five. O'clock now it's sun's, coming out it's just for the strange.
Take, A brownie now. There. Is a brand. And. The things that. Really. Aren't and near the other side you think of a city of screaming, sirens, and, cars. Rushing around than that at all, so. That's why this sound can really. You. Can't avoid it because. That's something you can't avoid it. This, is the sound of Pyongyang, which is not the Sun any other city I've ever been in from the headline. The, track is called where, are you dear general, referring. To the first leader of the DPRK, kim. Ill sung. And. After breakfast, it's time to head out for my first appointment of the day with. The great leaders, themselves. While. Our growing group of minders, are nervous about us filming, on the streets it, gives me my first sense of daily life in pyongyang and it's, all very normal but i. Do notice one significant. Difference. That's. Interesting that's the first poster, i've seen it from a propagandist. Poster, or. Touching, clutching, their weapons. Because. There's no advertising agency, any stop consumer, goods just. Ideas. Hello. The. Pyongyang metro, system, was, built in the 1970s. But. Its grandeur, is from a different age. That's. Quite something. This, view of urban, life is very different to what I saw from the train yesterday, possibly. Because Pyongyang, is much more prosperous, than the rest of the country. And just stay here really why, bother to catch a train watch. The world go by, I've. Arrived in the DPRK at, an historic, time state. Controlled newspapers, are covered, with photos of a meeting between the current leaders, of North and South Korea one. That heralds, new hope for peace. Ever. Since Korea was divided, in 1945. North. Korea, has been ruled by the Kim family, their. Images are everywhere. And everyone, seems to be wearing badges featuring. Their faces. I'd. Been told that to understand, North Korea you, need to understand, the role of the leaders. So, I'm heading to the master de grande of monument. One. Of the most sacred places in, the whole country. These. 22, metre, tall bronze, statues. Depict. The first two leaders, of North Korea. Kimmel. Song on the left was, supported, by the Russians, to lead the newly formed country in 1945. After. He died his, son Kim jong-il took, over until. His death seven years ago leaving. His son Kim jong-un, as the current leader. While. There they are the, biggest leaders, I've. Ever seen there's. Something about the. Size. And the scale which. Is undoubtedly. Credibly, impressive, and yet there are very few. Statues. To great leaders around the world where they're smiling they're. Looking accessible, they've got their specs on they've got their gear on they're, sort of embracing, the country, I think. That's what, although. It seems reground and overpowering, are actually trying to share the love embrace, the love of the whole country by. Smiling and making themselves like, the. Banana fathers, are sort of stern, rulers. That's. How I read it anyway but. Judge. For yourself, in. The. West the Kim dynasty is known as a brutal dictatorship, but here the great leaders cannot be criticized, so, I've been warned to tread carefully. And. Noticing, that you you wear the badge that the the. Party badge there with them two, leaders. On so. We. Said our Korean nation is a gaming. Zone Kim jong-un nation and we are all members of the nation, so it's the symbol of that and it's. The. Reason why we have them on, our left-hand side is that it's. Yeah. Yes. Yes is it significant. That. They're there smiling, is, that important, that they seem. To be smiling yeah. So, when you are smiling. They, look very happy and very alive, so. We. Korean people you think that they are still alive they're, alive in a house even though they passed away they. Are more like, fathers, than of just, than. Just political, leaders, we, call a single hottie the unity. The popular masses are United around the leaders.
And, The party, and with, one, wheel and one idea. Presumably. You when you're growing. Up from. Failure on in school you're learning about their. Work and what they represent as. Course of course we learn what. They have done but. You. Know we. All have got the. Own. Outlook. On the, world and so. It's. Not like what you call your. Brainwashing. Is right, yes, so. We. Learn from. A heart that they have done really there. Are great things to our Korean, people the. People who come here see people getting married but, how. Many times a year. Should. You come here is there a time everyone. Should become, it's. Voluntary, it's open for everyone and there is no like. No. One tells us to do you know what to do we are you should go you. Should go there and you should go here it's more like to our. Own. Volition. There. Are many more questions I'd, like to ask but, now is not the time it's. Made apparent, by our minders that I've already crossed a line. North. Korea claims, to have no religion, but. It's hard for me not to think that for many people the. Great leaders, are filling that void and. In. A country that has a widely reported appalling. Human rights record, I worry. But they put their faith in those who do not always act in their best interests. After. Lunch it's a quick walk to the east side of the Tang River and, a place that offers me the best view of the city the, Duchene Tower. Young. Person. Yarmulke. A new, Hasmik. And. Young has, no. Personal vehicle no. How about you handsome, nigga. Person, NICTA has amiga, I said nigga, I. Know that's a big god yes no. It's. A good thing is I'm having all. That. Just. To say hello. Okay, please. Yes. Haha. The. Stunning view from this, 170. Meter tall tower, gives. Me my first proper sense of the size and scale of Pyongyang. I, shouldn't. Say Wow but that is there anything you can say okay it's, astounding. The. West side of the city is dominated by grand, buildings. Stadiums. And new developments, that, look like something from a science fiction movie. The, East is a sea of Soviet, style concrete, apartment, blocks. They. Used to be gray but. Kim jong-il instructed. That the buildings be painted in bright colors. Transforming. The skyline. What. They I do know was that Pyongyang, was just bombed flat in 1953.
During The Korean. War so, what we are seeing here as. With. I think the exception, of one building all being built in. The last sort, of 60. Years, it's. Quite impressive. The. Name of the Juche a tower refers. To Kim il-sung's ruling. Ideology. One. Which has perpetuated the, idea of self-reliance. And isolation, from the rest of the world for, almost 70, years. Funny. How cities, all have a sort of name a ring, about them and very often countries, are known by. Their cities you know what Paris France on that but, this is Pyongyang. North Korea which, is a name I've known a lot, of us know in slightly, always, slightly threatening. Context. This is Pyongyang, what comes out of here is very sinister, what. Does it mean a city is threatening a city of sinister, cities a city in this. As its own grandeur, in a way. Pyongyang. Also, has a bizarre charm. And on my way back across the river I find, it hard not to be transfixed, by the traffic, police stationed. At busy intersections. They're. Choreographed. Robotic. Movements are, strangely, hypnotic. They. Also I notice, all. Appear to be young women. There's. A rumor that marshal, kim jonghwan hand-picked, them himself. It's. Sunday. The. One day weekend, in the dprk. Volleyball. Big thing here. Yeah. So yang and control, are, keen to show me what they would be doing if, they weren't having to look after a British film crew. Okay. She's. Gonna show me first of all while, the hotshot is and. Why he is on the. Name of the Wyatt Earp. I. Keep. Aiming at the L a bit behind, yeah, that's every time. Because. I then begun destined. To. Unwind, after, our efforts, of the shooting range we. Find ourselves somewhere, I really, wasn't expecting. A North. Korean, health, spa. This, is the state-run, Changwon, health complex, it's, about as far from prison camps and nuclear missiles as you can get. And. Includes, a hair, cell which, has a rather prescriptive. Approach to hairstyles. These. I think of that recommended. Haircuts. All, the stars you can have here are, up there and. And. Then there's actually, that are not gonna be similar no, you, know mullets, or ponytails, or anything sort of, disorderly. Like that they neat and tidy. Hello. You. Do wear sort of massage not haircut, no. Haircut but massage, okay like. Already. I feel the, pressure. Slipping. From my shoulders. Down. My back into this chair which is vibrating. Cycles. Guess. What I want. You. Can come off. Thank you this, is a relaxing. End to, a long day. Very much a. My. Hotel, room gives, me a rare moment away, from prying eyes and ears but. At least I hope it does. Filming. Isn't, easy here. Everywhere. We go were accompanied, by an, entourage of, about five or, six, men and. Women. In suits who watch. Our every move and check everything, we're seeing and everything we're doing and, everything, we're saying that you, know, they. Do things completely differently. That's, the way it is. We can't just come blundering in the same way from the West I want to see this I want to see that if, you can learn anything at all I think, about this country, could prize. The Dorit and very very gently. We. Need to keep their trust and it's a slow process but if we step out of line and we shoot things we shouldn't shoot then. The, door will be slammed shut that'll be the end of it so it's. Really all about us, trusting. Them and then, trusting. Us I mean, so far it's. Working quite well we'll, see in the end. Day. Two in, Pyongyang, and it's, time to go back to school. From. A young age children. In North Korea are taught the Revolutionary, history of their country's battles against. Japanese, occupiers, and American, aggressors, and the, heroic, deeds of the great leaders, do. You know. What. Is more surprising is that learning, English is, also, compulsory. And. Young. My. Name is Michael. Michael. Palin I live in Britain, anyone. Know London. I've. Tell you what I've got and.
I've Been to lots of places in, the, world and I travel with me with, this and. I'm. Intrigued, to know how well these kids know the world around them especially as international. Travel is effectively, banned for all North Koreans. Show. Me where Britain, is on this map who'd. Like to have a go it's. In Europe good yes it's in Europe and it is. No, that's, there we are yes. Yes. Now, throw. It around have a look at the world that's it, okay. Yeah. Very good now you can throw it very hard to anyone, you don't. Rush. Your Russia. Okay who's gonna fight to step. On oh. That's. To me okay. Now. If. There's anything they, would, like to ask me about my life. How. Are you how are you Carrie I've, got three children how. Many in your family, Oh for. What, what do you want to do when. You grow, up I want, to be scientist. Anyone. Else I, want, to enter the, Korean people armies good. Yes. I'm going to offer, your teacher please. Royal, to respect in mushroom Jamal very good I. Want. To be your famous, writer, you, want to be a famous writer that's, good. We've. Got a pen can, you remember Pend Oreille. Sage. And cotton in Korean. Practice. On the, pokey, maneja bang maid and she's all creamer. Oh Dorothy. Duncan Aaron, green. Mommy I rape you go do. A lotta. Sangha. Cheese on Korean. Yum yummy some day and custodial. Physical. Credos. Home honey don't pick too sunny or nanny, Cucina. Picked, us on our hands. In Cabo gained on Corregidor. Creeper. Chosen, don't wear pants. Oh Jericho, and. Seung-hyun, and different, so gay man rheumatoid, Oh cricket. Soccer, coach in the, head okay must be doula. Malpeque. Tea is a sacred volcano, in, North Korea, which. Kim il-sung allegedly. Used as a hideout while, plotting, against, the Japanese, in the 1930s. It's. A beautiful, poem but. I get the distinct impression that, critical. Thinking is, probably not, on the school curriculum. But. Excelling, at sport most, definitely, is I'm. Told, by my guides that. Kim jong-un wants North Korea to, become a sports superpower. Judging. By this law, Table Tennis may, be the way to go. It's, like a factory, farm for ping pong champions, I was. Quite impressed first, of all they were learning English but also the. Ideology, was was there underneath everything but not pushed, absolutely. All the time and yet the. Poem is about man Peck - that the boy want to be physicist, to do things better - kim jeong-hoon so, it's coming they're very, much embedded the. Feeling of working, together from, one leader but it wasn't pushed at me that time and. The ping pong was just incredible, I mean the speed ferocity. With which they played and the determination, to be world beaten what. I'm learning is that the sense of unity, and togetherness is. Incredibly, strong here, if a, little disturbing. After, all this, is the land of mass military, parades. Hmm. Now. That's a really, really good cup of coffee about the best I've had in Pyongyang, this. Rather nice sort of intimate. Most Austrian. Style. Cafes. All feels rather pleasant and yet, it's. In quite an odd location. Really. This, intimate, little place is, actually, right on the corner of. Kim.
Il-sung Square. The, place where those vast. Processions. Of military, might it, all takes place on this amazing. Amazing, area, here. You. Can see when. They do these enormous ballets with thousands, of people all doing the same thing at the same time, there. Are the dots. Little. Positions. Where people, stands so you've got somebody here doing all that sort of stuff and then you've got somebody here doing all that sort of stuff so you've got to sort it out it's incredibly, difficult when. You see it done well she get, it done properly without bashing, the person next to you of, course when the parade's come along it's, along this roadway that, the. Weapons. And the missiles. Will. Will, come it's. Just so it's. Just strange sensation. To walk across it and here. We are. At. The moment there's, not. Many people here just me at the moment doing my own. Display. Of. Synchronized. Television. Presenting. It's. Never going to catch on it's never going to catch on. The. Billboards, showing a Korean soldier, it's. Just one of the many pieces of military propaganda, I've, seen in Pyongyang. Most. Of it is produced behind, closed doors, here. At the Mansudae art studio. But. For the first time we're. Being allowed to film one of the country's leading propaganda. Artists, at work. Can. You tell me what, this. Painting. What this work is about. So. It, came clean. Hello. For. All the artists, or tangent, figures, on this. Picture of pan Korean peace and unity is very, timely, and might be just for my benefit but I think there's more to propaganda. Than missiles it's. Another way to keep people United, to the, cause. What. Is the secret of making a good, propaganda. Poster. In. Japan. Hogenson an icon and it is. The pollutant, toolchain. I talked, to a panel on that window. Is. Open doom because, it's Eastern no chuckles too bad evil sinking. But. I'm really changeable. Captain. You can chunk. Up engine hissing. There. Are over a thousand, artists, here producing. Art for, the stage in. This studio a painter, is working on a canvas celebrating. The fishing industry. And this. Man has, been responsible for sculpting, the giant statues, of the great leaders, I'm. Aware everything. I'm being shown is designed. To give me a positive image of North Korea. What. I'm also realizing, is, just how tight see, everything, is controlled there's, no internet, no, international phones no freedom of the press the, government controls it all and, there are no voices of dissent. And. After a few days you. Start to feel the propaganda. Seeping. Into your soul. There's, so much that is so, different about North Korea but. I find the offer of dinner and, a few beers with my friendly guides, refreshing. Name familiar. No. No I am. Korean. Barbecue not like this, it's messy is it is. It going to be a lot of spray. Flying, Oh. I, think. That she's tied me to the chair, I can't. You do. Eyes with, my color. So. This is the raw meat what, this is. Koreans. Like me. Are. You wrap it up okay okay. Very. Very good. North. Koreans, enjoy a drink, apparently. Each man, is given, weekly a beer coupons, by the state, which, provides them with five litres of beer a month. It's. Nice to see the guides relaxed, but. I'm told tomorrow is the day I'll really see the North Koreans, at play. It's. My last day in the capital of North Korea and, it's, May Day the International, Workers day but. It's a holiday. The. Parks of Pyongyang, are filling, up of the city's 3 million, residents. The. Game is graduate you didn't have to pick up bits of paper and then, the bit of people tell them they've got to take something and run round the ring it might be a ball it might be a hat it might be a jacket. It might be a man or woman or a child and, they race around with it. There's. Also music, and. Dancing. I. Suspect. This gentleman, is a frustrated. Fred Astaire, office. Manager by day who. Knows what by night. Mayday, seems to be giving me what I've been hoping for an. Opportunity. To mix with ordinary, North Koreans when, the guard is down. And, as the day goes on so, does the dancing. And. I suspect the, drinking. To, an inhibited. Englishman, a sort of mass Sunday, like made, am John yang it seems, at first, slightly. Intimidating. The. Kids are actually you just have to join in. Everyone's. Out and, they're all in the sense of the cities then go out to the countryside and they start with lots of little parties, then become bigger parties, then, become these huge occasions, of spontaneous.
Dancing, And a bit of so, drinking. The the rice wine to keep you going. After. Bit the whole sort, of Hill is just humming. Cmedancing. Quite important, is I mean everyone seems to have a song or a dance, Korean. No something. Is done except. Me I have a poor voice. Okay. Thank. You. These. People, might live in a repressive, system that I find hard to understand, but. There's a joy and humanity, to this that's undimmed. Day. You know only kind of thrown, it's. About a buzz true, what's, gonna be like here at night it's gonna be you know what. Is it gonna be like here at night I asked myself, Oh. Thank. You. Dear. Being. Dragged back by the family. Well. I'm. Off to be a tree somewhere else. May. Day and my. Time in Pyongyang, has. Left me with more questions than answers. Much. Of me wants to take everything at face value to. Accept the North Korea that I'm being shown but. I know there's, another side, and I've, seen enough to realize this, is a country with none of the freedoms we in the West take for granted. Maybe, I'll learn more outside. The bubble of Pyongyang, after, much, negotiation I've. Been. Given permission to explore parts of the country that are normally off-limits. To outsiders. Tomorrow. We, start a journey that will take us into unchartered. Territory. Next. Time I come, face-to-face with the North Korean military. Warheads. And nuclear missiles, have. Cost your country, and a lot of money, explore. Rarely. Filmed, areas of the country we, remember hearing in the West that you had very bad shortage. Of food, and pushed. The guides to, breaking point all. Right I'll tell you what I think a good leader should be able to deal. With criticism that's. What we are so different from, you.