Read through archived FRONTLINE/World
conversations around this story, including responses from
Ken Christy - Kailua, Hawaii
This was a fantastic piece.
Robert Krupp - Phoenix, Arizona
What an interesting program. I was stationed at Camp Sears,
Ouijongbu, South Korea 1985-1986 2nd Infantry Division.
It was an awesome experience. On two occasions I was able
to tour Panmunjon (DMZ). When I toured the DMZ the stump
of the Poplar tree from the Ax Murders was still standing.
Today a monument stands where the stump once stood in remembrance
of Captain (Major, Posthumously) Bonifas & Lieutenant Barrett.
Most Americans are unaware of the Axe Murders, Operation
Paul Bunyan that occurred 3 days after the axe murders or
the U.S.S. Pueblo affair. Many Americans are also unaware
that our military continues to defend and maintain the peace
of the Korean Peninsula. I was very troubled to see one
of the axes that were used in the axe murders on display
in the North Korean Museum. I hope all diplomatic means
will be used to resolve the current situation. Both North
and South Korea have large armies. China would again become
involved if conflict did erupt again on the peninsula...
Great Job Frontline. I salute all who serve or have served
our county honorably.
Monique Martinez - Reading, Kansas
I am a high school teacher, in a small Kansas town. With
everything going on today, Iraq, North Korea and Afghanistan
my students have many questions and concerns. They constantly
hear about oppressive leaders and dictators. They have trouble
separating leaders from those they lead. They have no sense
of what the people are like. Programs like this one allow
the eyes of my students to slowly open up and reshape how
they view the world. Thank you for your part in this educational
Jody Pope - London, England
It's easy to try and turn your head to the problems we are
all facing today, to live by media stereotypes that are
aimed to reinforce fear. I have so much respect for the
makers of this programme; the only way to bring about change
is through communication, to see each other's faces clearly.
I feel railroaded by the British
Government and the Media, I feel misrepresented and completely
disillusioned. It was so refreshing to see a human account
of North Korea rather than the News At Ten map graphic with
a nuclear war head marker, which might as well be accompanied
by the Jaws theme tune.
There are communication barriers
that need to be broken down but they shouldn't be violently
Chris Keenan - Boulder, Colorado
Thanks for the excellent web site and the diverse, functional
links. A very sad story, to say the least. The suffering
of humanity is never-ending. The corrupt North Korean regime
can be dealt with in a number of ways, it seems. The current
approach, however, is not working. The people of the Korean
peninsula want re-unification. What are they willing to
do to achieve it?
We American imperialists need a big dose of humility before
we will ever be able to help other peoples on this globe,
especially ego-manical tyrants like Kim Jong-il. But, as
we all know, are leaders are not interested in helping anyone
but their friends and families. Our leaders do not have
the solution to this problem.
Democracy, not plutocracy! Wake up, friends! We are in
this together, whether we like it or not.
Chris Keenan - Boulder, Colorado
One more thing.
Please continue to keep the web
site current and useful. It is a marvelous tool for self-directed
learning (among those fortunate or powerful enough to have
access to the Internet).
I don't have time to watch TV, and
seriously doubt its ability to beneficially impact the course
of human history ... but the work you people are doing is
stellar and the best of what TV has ever offered. I send
$$$ to PBS because of programs like this (and just about
everything Frontline or Moyers works on).
Thanks sincerely for your contributions
to a better world!
Louis A. - Denver, Colorado
What a tremendous job Ben Anderson and his friends did reporting
on North Korea. I didn't think the people would of been
so friendly. But one can tell, they do not know practically
anything about the rest of the world. Can you imagine Mr.
and Ms. Pak attending Carnival in Rio, or Mardi Gras in
New Orleans? Watching the celebrations in the stadium made
me think how much a drone the average person is over there.
The great leader is like a god but idol worship is a big,
major sin, even if your a atheist. I'm curious to know though,
did Mr. Anderson exchange addresses with the Paks when he
left, or did it seem futile to do so? Is he going to send
them a video copy of the story he did?
James Wingert - Boulder, Colorado
What a great piece was "Suspicious Minds." I think context
and reservement of judgement is very important in trying
to understand people. I have read all the postings on this
page and I don't understand how anyone could be angry about
this piece. One writer accuses them of being "brainwashed."
Now, that's an assertion that I don't disagree with, HOWEVER,
and it's a big however, we as Americans are brainwashed
too! We're just brainwashed by Pepsi and Coke and Levi's
and...oh, I don't know, 20th Century Fox. Not to mention
the propaganda our own government feeds us about who our
enemies are and why we should be fearful of what they can
do to us. I'll tell you what...I haven't done a great deal
of traveling but I've learned in the little I've done that
a little respect goes a long way. The other thing I've learned
is that for the most part people are great everywhere. It's
the governments that are such a pain.
The following conversation
took place in response to the first broadcast and launch
of "Suspicious Minds" in January 2003.
Michael Harman - Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
This story was a most interesting look at a pretty mysterious
place. It was odd and touching at the same time. I think
the young lady "guide" was genuinely touched by her contact
with Mr. Anderson and his associate. Thank you.
Pippa Holloway - Nashville, Tennessee
Thanks [for] doing this fascinating piece on North Korea.
It is so rare to see any footage from inside the country
and so rare to hear any voices from citizens there -- though
of course I recognize that the two guides served [as] mouthpieces
for a repressive government not as actual "voices" of citizens.
You were right they do "break your heart."
I have a couple of specific questions
about little things that you were not able to fully explain
in such a short piece.
(1) Were those Rollerblades? That
was about the last thing I expected to see in North Korea.
(2) More generally are all consumer
goods manufactured there, or do they trade with other countries?
Would Mr. Pak's watch have been made domestically? What
about private cars? (I saw some at the beach scene, it looked
like). Or do they have stores with imported goods for the
urban elite? Would they be government run or are there some
kind of private market importers?
(3) The scene of your last dinner,
there were a bunch of people in that restaurant who sure
didn't look Korean. Who were those people and what was that
All this points to larger questions
about the condition of the economy and the state of course.
I recognize that the urban elite's loyalty is bought while
the rural poor starve, but its interesting nonetheless to
speculate how resources are allocated and just how isolated
the place really is.
Thanks for speaking peace and reminding
us that is a core value shared by so many.
Reporter Ben Anderson responds:
They were rollerblades, but they weren't the best rollerblades
I've ever seen. It is very strange to see anything devoted
to leisure there though, everything is normally functional,
productive, educational etc. etc. Any children who are
very good athletes, dancers or singers are given favourable
treatment- The 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il loves entertainers
more than he loves soldiers, maybe those kids were part
of the elite, being groomed to take part in the huge shows
the Dear Leader loves so much.
You see some foreign goods there, lots of old Russian
products, and China has donated many products, especially
bicycles I believe. There is one department story in Pyongang
(it's called 'Department Store Number 1') but its shelves
are pretty bare and there aren't many customers there.
North Koreans who have good jobs (I believe they earn
about $1000 a year) have a bit of spending money to spare,
but not much. The few we saw mostly chose to spend that
money on drink.
There are three or four restaurants in Pyongang that are
there for foreign visitors, you don't see many Koreans
there, and they don't have menus. You get whatever they've
got. In the best restaurant, my first course was a burger
with a fried egg on top! The customers are mostly visiting
Chinese, UN workers and the other group you saw were tourists.
An English guy has been running tours into North Korea
for a few years- groups of about 10-15 Europeans travel
in about twice a year. North Koreans are desperate to
welcome tourists, they honestly believe that if they show
you all the monuments and museums, you will be converted.
It's actually impossible to tell how much the North Korean
people believe in their leader.
No-one seems to be bought, this
is what's so incredible, despite horrific suffering, the
loyalty seems more genuine than the supposed loyalty I
have seen in Iraq, Iran, Libya and Cuba. Then again at
least 250,000 have risked their lives crossing the border
into China, so it's impossible to tell what is really
going on inside the minds of North Koreans.
They've been seeking a non-aggression
treaty for years. The problem here is that the leaders
on both sides always have to look strong. But they, after
all, are not the ones who will be fighting and starving
as a result of a breakdown in negotiations, usually caused
by ridiculous pride.
Scott Cusiter - Houston, Texas
Excellent programme. I'd like to see more on North Korea
and their wonderful people. Lets hope that one day soon
Korea will be a united country.
Colleen Eckhardt - San Diego,
Thank you for the piece on North Korea. I felt very lucky
to have a 20 minute window into this country, wonderfully
hosted by Ben Anderson. Each story that Frontline/The World
presents is greatly appreciated by those of us interested
in current world news.
Doreen Mark and Seaton Lewis - Lakewood, Colorado
We are wondering if the reporter encountered anywhere in
North Korea any mention of the non-Korean indigenous people
-- the Nivkh/Gilyak, the Orok/Oroquen, the Oroch(i), the
Ulch, the Negidal, and/or the Nganasan?...
Reporter Ben Anderson
I had read a little about this before I left, but no, we
didn't encounter them anywhere. Kim Jong-il is determined
to keep North Korea as a secular state, but I never got
the impression he is trying to make it ethnically pure.
I think loyalty is all that matters there. Interestingly,
an American ran across the DMZ years ago, but no-one knows
what happened to him or where he ended up.
It should be remembered that the story was produced by a
journalist posing as a tourist and was therefore unable
to probe the issues facing the US and North Korea. Anyone
who has faced the North Korean personnel at the DMZ knows
that they are specially selected as totally dyed in the
wool party liners. The guides, though charming and disarming
know that you cannot say the word American without preceding
it with "imperialist". North Korea is a dangerous and threatening
aspect for the world. Take a look at the North Korean News
agency web site, KCNA, and find the daily rhetoric emanating
from this "hermit kingdom" and if you don't sense the foreboding
danger you'll be missing the whole point.
Reporter Ben Anderson
Ken Underhill - St. Louis, Missouri
I disagree, they would embrace peace tomorrow, as long as
it didn't involve a humiliation for the 'Dear Leader,' and
have been seeking a non-aggression treaty for years now.
The threats are merely a way of gaining power at the negotiating
table. Chalmers Johnson called it 'the text book example
of how to get a great deal from a weak hand.' All North
Koreans are more than happy to discuss US/North Korean relations.
they have some very funny ideas about history, they are
very paranoid about the US, but they are not insane brainwashed
robots hell-bent on war, as they are often portrayed. My
producer disagrees with me, but I felt certain the North
Koreans would never launch a major attack. The last time
they did was in 1950! And that was only after they practically
begged Stalin for permission, and eventually got his support.
The same is true around the world. Iraq invaded Iran with
the backing of the West, and Saddam thought he had a green
light for the invasion of Kuwait. Cuba had Russia, Syria
had Egypt (or thought it did) the list goes on.... They
may all be vicious, vain, mad tyrants, they are not suicidal.
All 3 segments last night had me riveted, but the North Korean
piece left me terribly conflicted. Seeing this obviously proud
but outmoded political system striving to maintain itself
through forced propaganda to innocent pre-schoolers was disturbing.
However I couldn't help feeling kindness and empathy at the
"wink and a smile" attitude of the Korean hosts when provoked
by the reporter to comment on the west or defend their system.
Under the crippling isolation imposed on them, the Koreans
have only "The Dear Leader" to cling to for cultural identity.
I was so amazed by this piece.....a real insight and surprise
as to who North Koreans really are and what they think of
Joshua Giese - Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
I believe North Korea is making their current provocative
steps out of weakness. I believe the recent famine and the
dissolution of the USSR have left North Korea in a such
financial bind that they are attempting to use nuclear weapons
to pry economic aid from the United States. I would refuse
to play North Korea's games and would impose tough sanctions.
I would also consider limited strikes to remove North Korea's
existing nuclear weapons.
Sabella Abidde - Mankato, Minnesota
There is no great mystery to the current imbroglio. None
whatsoever! This impasse wouldn't have come about if the
Bush administration had (1) honored the agreement the Clinton
administration reached with Pyongyang. But hey, the realists
and hawks in the Bush team were bent on thumbing their noses
at the rest of the world, and (2) President Bush erred by
including North Korea in the "axis of evil" column. By so
doing he poured gasoline on a fire that was dying out. After
all, there was no finality to the Korean War - only a temporary
armistice. All that the president accomplished by the axis
of evil speech was to pour gasoline on the fire in the belly
of a dying lion.
As it stands, the only way out is
through diplomacy; for this is one fiasco the Great America
may not be able to solve militarily. Forget the talk of
being able to fight two wars in two regions of the world.
Forget the stick, and approach Pyongyang with a carrot -
which is how we should approach Baghdad anyway. We all know
we live in a unipolar world; therefore, America need not
always flaunt its preeminence. Idealists know this best!
Nick Jones - Tennessee
Only near the end of this story did I find where its heart
truly lied. Watching Ms. Pak's obscurely sincere interactions
with these journalists simply shattered my heart, and it
seemed as though the weight of their circumstances fell
a little too heavily on hers. This precious time spent was
only a flash in the pan. I can only imagine with great sadness
what wonderful friends these four people might have made
in a different time and a different place or just a different
Reporter Ben Anderson
Craig Timberlake - Portland, Maine
I couldn't agree more. In many ways this was the purpose
of this series. For the original series on the BBC, we traveled
to six countries that George Bush has labeled 'Evil' and
the people could not have been nicer. This was especially
true in North Korea, Iran and Iraq. That's why it's a major
mistake to punish a country for the actions of its leader.
In Iraq, Saddam is living like a king, he has been listed
as one of the 7 richest men in the world, yet his people,
who hate him and have tried to get rid of him, are the ones
suffering. They are suffering under him, under sanctions
and under our bombs. You are absolutely right that politics
aside, we had great relations with each other, and really
not so different at all. Even the politics was just something
that we enjoyed discussing, it was never a source of conflict.
The "Suspicious Minds" piece on North Korea was absolutely
fascinating. It placed a human face on the tragic state of
conditions in North Korea while illustrating the total control
that the cult of personality has held over the people.
Eric Yankovich - Warminster, Pennsylvania
I have watched about 10 minutes of your propaganda piece
and promptly turned it off. I would hope that one day this
country and the British (including that wise guy) would
learn how to mind their own business. If a foreigner were
to arrive here and behave that way, many thugs (here in
USA) would not tolerate it; but yet that wise guy is apparently
free to go about and insult his hosts and their regime.
Gee, whatever happened to the so-called "hostile behaviour"
of North Korea you people keep talking about? They seemed
to tolerate that jerk fairly well.
The constant jabbing and innuendo aimed at North Korea
and other regimes that are trying to retain whatever independence
they have left is annoying and is obviously the same old
cheap and stale propaganda.
Please ask that English snot what he thinks of the British
thug soccer fans or what he thinks of of his silly countrymen
when they pay all kinds of childish homage to "king and
Why doesn't FRONTLINE do a story about that?
Sincerely Yours, Eric Yankovich, P.E.
Toni Russell - Texas
You use the word 'independence' in your tirade as though
it is something that exists in North Korea. Please do tell
where you were able to see any independence for the North
Koreans. Those poor people are brain washed from the time
they are born to believe anything and everything their "great
leader" tells them. I think it is a great sadness that you
are so blinded to the inhumanity these people believe is
generosity. Maybe you should spend the day in the life of
an average North Korean and then come back and see if your
opinion remains the same.
Ron Campbell - Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
As with Iraq, let's leave the North Koreans alone until
there are unmistakable signs of a move toward aggression
against other nations, such as the massive U.S. buildup
in the Arabian Peninsula. The doctrine of pre-emptive war
is nothing but an excuse to impose a pax Americana worldwide,
and the only reason Bush is espousing the doctrine and moving
to back it up is because he can, being the commander-in-chief
of the world's only superpower. As for nuclear weapons,
the U.S. is the most heavily armed and dangerous nuclear
power on Earth today, with the Bush administration threatening
to use such weapons in the apparently inevitable Iraq war
under certain conditions. The DPRK has maybe two such weapons,
according to newspaper reports (and who knows the source
of that information? Was it the U.S. Defense Department?).
The DPRK is a threat to no one. It doesn't even have oil
to export, to my knowledge. So what would be the U.S. interest
in attacking it, other than simply to assert worldwide American
Geneva Whitecotton - Bossier
Exactly how did we go from looking for Osama Bin Laden to
inspecting Saddam Hussein's country and in the meantime
worrying about being bombed by North Korea?
Thomas Roberts - Zanesville, Ohio
Once again a very good story, Ben Anderson should be commended.
Unilateral action by the U.S against North Korea or even
Iraq would be unprecedented, and would send a huge message
to the world: one of defiance and unjustified aggression.
I must ask, what makes the U.S superior so that it is entitled
to be the judge as to who can have nuclear weapons? In my
opinion, the U.S must restrain itself and control its anger.
Unless there is something more to this sudden urge to go
to war other than the pursue of national security. Is it
about power? money? pride? It is a shame and gut-wrenching
that anti-American sentiment is spreading around the world.
However, I can't help but understand why such a feeling
Max V. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The depiction of North Korea in this show made me think
of Nazi Germany with its cult of personality and intense
propaganda. The US should ask for Russia's assistance to
step in and bring North Korea in touch with the world.
Fred Simpson - Marquette Heights,
Just saw your PBS news article about
North Korea. Thank you for adding some information about
N. Korea, there hasn't been much available from the news
media lately. Especially since the 1950s.
I think conflict resolution between
the US and North Korea has to be as careful and tactful
as that done between the US and the old USSR or China. Does
president Bush get that?? Don't know.
I also found it amusing when, while
in North Korea, your reporter found it strange that a siren
sounded at noon. The blue-collar community that I live in
sounds a similar siren every day. That siren sounds in the
AM, at Noon and at 9:45 PM EVERY DAY! It was very stressful
when it continued sounding, every day, immediately after
9-11-01. Makes me believe, just a little, that I live in
a socialist country too.
Sincerely, Fred Simpson
Johnny Weeks - Memphis, Tennessee
America has lived too long with dangerous enemies waiting
to strike at us. Appeasement of food and energy just makes
our enemies stronger, harder to defeat. President Bush is
right to push back, and let our foes be aware of our power
and our willingness to fight for freedom and peace. North
Korea, if it had long range missiles and nuclear war heads,
might not attack the U S, but do we really want to return
to the old Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) days, and
periodic threats by Pyonyang whenever they wish to get more
food, medicine, Elvis records, etc? My Dad used to say "If
you show me your ass, you must know I'm gonna kick it."
No negotiations at the barrel of a gun for me thanks.
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