Vice’s documentary on their high-profiled trip to North Korea aired on HBO Friday, June 14th. As they ticked another episode to their list of sensational journalism, North Korea is considered a bit like the holy grail for journalists since information is so restricted. The show’s running time was 30 minutes which seemed a bit ambitious for a trip that made headlines with Dennis Rodman as part of the traveling crew. The show did end up to seem quite a mirage of video footage, interviews, and monologues all jammed up every second. An extended version of the trip would be worthwhile to watch.
Overall, the content was pretty standard for the most of the beginning as they were part of the state-sanctioned tour of North Korea but tailored for the more athletic audience they had. They toured marble floored and chandelier-ed gyms. Certain gym equipments were marked with a bright red sticker that “proved” Kim Jong-Un’s personal inspection. Moose from the Harlem Globetrotters was especially intrigued by the Korean butt massage equipment at the gym. It was also enlightening to know that North Korea had mastered the technique of anti-aging, breast enlargement and curing breast cancer.
The crew was also taken to a computer lab to show the advancement of North Korea. However, Vice rightly made an observation that Eric Schmidt’s trip didn’t in that even in a room full of computers, there was silence and no one was actually using the computers. A video of a North Korean man staring blankly into the Google homepage was the highlight.
The highlight and more interesting portion of the trip obviously came towards the end when the Harlem Globetrotters and the under 18 national North Korean basketball team has a friendly match in a massive stadium. As they begin to warm up, the mass audience begins to clap and woo as Kim Jong-Un walks down the steps. His wife Ri Sol-ju was also at his side, which was a rare photo op as she has been behind the spotlight for awhile and was rumored to have given birth to Kim Jong #3.
Another interesting but very awkward moment was when Dennis Rodman decided to give an impromptu speech about his support for better relations between the U.S. and North Korea. It’s hard to imagine Michael Jordan doing that if he had decided to go. The rest of the episode basically emphasizes how intense the crew felt as they get invited to dinner and have a personal audience with Kim Jong-Un.
In the end, the crew gets to safely leave North Korea without being captured and during an AMA session for Reddit, they quote, “Leaving the country literally felt like the end of Argo. We were up all night quietly hiding footage, trying to encrypt things. We didn’t really feel relieved until the planes wheels left the ground. At which point we felt like we could speak freely for the first time in 2 weeks which is a really crazy feeling that we probably take for granted…Crazier that we all kissed the ground and cried “FREEDOM” when we landed… in China.”
Overall, the trip brought a lot of sarcastic, positive, and negative feedback. However, Vice provided us a look into North Korea and although most of their trip was a facade, it still established a connection with Kim Jong-Un that will be remembered.
Watch Vice’s commentary of their North Korea trip here: