The Director is the Commander

It’s sometimes said that inspiration can arise from the most unlikely of sources. For documentary filmmaker Anna Broinowski, inspiration came in the form of Dear Leader Kim Jong il. Specifically, his manifesto The Cinema and Directing. Anna decided to make a short anti-fracking film that followed the Dear Leader’s rules of propaganda filmmaking. This film […]

Enemy of the State

Jang Jin-sung was one of Pyongyang’s elite, a young and ambitious poet who had been admitted into Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. He spent his days masquerading as a South Korean, crafting poetry for publication in South Chosun that sang the praises of the Dear Leader and General Kim Il-sung. By all appearances Mr Jang was […]

Goodbye, North Korea

It seems that some of you thought that my post about the Lumineers was the final in the DPRK series. But you good folks would be mistaken. And I do bear some responsibility for creating that impression. Anyway, like all great things that come with a free set of steak knives, there’s more. But in […]

Bittersweet symphony

In Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Bradley Cooper’s character, recently released from a psychiatric institution, is doing sort of okay. Not great, but adjusting to being back out in the wider world. Then Pat hears this one song in the waiting room of his therapist’s office, and he just loses his shit. In attempting to identify […]


The De-Militarised Zone: the DMZ for short. It’s the border territory dividing North from South Korea. Bill Clinton called it, “The scariest place on earth”. And it’s where we went on the last full day of our tour. **** The DMZ, scarily enough, is only 40 kilometres away from Seoul. For us though, heading to […]

Teenage wasteland

There’s this joke that Steve Martin delivered while hosting the 73rd Annual Academy Awards. He says, ‘You know, I saw the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I didn’t see any tigers or dragons. Then I realized, it’s because they’re crouching and hidden.’ While I can be pretty certain that Pyongyang’s youth weren’t crouching or […]