May 30, 2010
SITTING in a leather chair in one of Pyongyang’s smartest hotels, the economic adviser to the North Korean government was enjoying giving me a lecture. “Our country has reached new heights of economic achievement,” said Ri Ki-song, “thanks to the strength and self-reliance of the North Korean people and to our plentiful natural resources.”
The room was suddenly plunged into darkness. It was another of the city’s daily power cuts.
The blackout might have cast a shadow on the country’s “new heights of economic achievement” but Ri continued without hesitation. “And, what is more, we are meeting all our people’s needs.”
Barely able to see my interviewee, I gave up. What was the point of reminding him that the World Food Programme reports that a third of his people are starving and there is so little power that half the factories in the country are not working?
During my visit — the first of this nature by a BBC TV crew to the world’s most secretive and isolated country in six years — I found a people in denial and suffering delusions. George Orwell would have felt at home here. Indeed, defectors from North Korea have been known to ask, referring to his dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four: “How did he know our country so well?”
This article was posted: Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 5:11 am