|FRONTLINE/World: Episode #104|
PBS AIRDATE: Thursday, January 16, at 9 p.m., 60 minutes
As international tensions grow over North Korea's resumption of a nuclear weapons program, FRONTLINE/World takes viewers inside the isolated nation for a rare glimpse of life in what President Bush calls an "axis of evil" country.
Airing Thursday, January 16, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), the latest edition of PBS's new series of "stories from a small planet" follows two BBC journalists who, traveling as tourists with a small camera, tour North Korea accompanied by their government "minders" in an attempt to learn what everyday life is like in the Communist nation. Also featured: a report from Nigeria on the woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and the Muslim-Christian rioting sparked by the Miss World pageant; and a visit to remote Reykjavik, Iceland, where up and coming avant-garde music groups are turning an icy backwater into a hip cultural hot spot.
The latest installment of FRONTLINE/World features the following segments:
"Suspicious Minds"For centuries, Korea's policy of fervent isolationism earned the nation its nickname of "the hermit kingdom." It's a description that still rings true in today's North Korea: Last year, just 150 Western tourists visited the Communist country, and with no Internet, cell phones or independent media, the nation remains shielded from most outside influences and information.
"See that radio tower?" an American GI stationed in the Demilitarized Zone asks. "They're actually [North Korean] jammers to block all of our transmissionsour radio and television transmissions. So that they have no idea of what actually goes on in the outside world." So isolated is North Korea, the soldier adds, that North Koreans "think that a BMW is actually manufactured in North Korea."
In an offbeat, personal report, BBC reporter Ben Anderson and producer/videographer Will Daws take viewers through the DMZ and into North Korea by way of Seoul, South Korea, where they speak with recent North Korean defectors. The refugees warn the reporters that they will find few North Koreans who will speak openly with outsiders.
"They educate you from the moment you are born," one North Korean woman says. "The moment a child utters a word, they start him on ideological training...as a result, they can't think for themselves."
A North Korean man, meanwhile, confirms reports of massive famine. "First and foremost," he says, "North Korea is a country where people die of starvation."
Prepared for the worst, Anderson and Daws cross the 38th parallel and begin their tour of the hermit kingdom, escorted by two government minders, Mr. Pak and Miss Pak (no relation). They find a militaristic nation where one in ten North Koreans is in uniform and the nation's military triumphs are trumpeted-and in some cases, exaggerated.
At the Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum, for example, a uniformed guide describes how North Korea's "Great Leader"the late General Kim Il Sung-single handedly defeated "Japanese imperialism" in 1945. No mention is made of World War II. The guide also states that it was South Koreanot North Korea-that started the Korean War as a result of "U.S. aggressors" occupying the South.
When Anderson questions the guide on these historical points, her standard reply is "I will explain later."
The journalists are also taken to visit one of North Korea's most prized and popular attractionsthe captured USS Pueblo-where they meet a North Korean veteran who took part in the ship's capture in 1968. The man has strong words for the United States.
"We have...become an invincible navy under the great general's command," he tells Anderson and Daws. "If the U.S. imperialists infiltrate this land again, we'll chase them to the ends of the world and bomb their bases, and those infiltrators will be crushed mercilessly under our feet."
Anderson and Daws are also taken on a tour of what is purported to be a "typical" co-operative farm, where the natural abundance seems to be at odds with reports in the West of massive famine in North Korea. The reporters' guide, Miss Pak, however, attributes such reports to "propaganda."
"I don't think it's so serious," she says of reports that anywhere from 1 to 3 million North Koreans have died of starvation. "There is still a lack of food, but not that kind of serious problem, many people dying."
The tour takes an informal turn when the journalists visit the beach and an amusement park. They also begin to find themselves developing an unexpected rapport with their government minders, joking with Mr. Pak about his $20 "bourgeois" watch and discussing Miss Pak's appreciation for "the famous singer [whose name] starts from E"-Elvis.
"I came here actually thinking that by the end of the week I'd confront our guides and say, ‘Look, what you're showing me is a sham,'" Anderson tells the camera. "But, I don't knowthey're breaking my heart."
Then it's back to the official government tour as Anderson and Daws are taken to a nationalistic rally, where tens of thousands of North Koreans celebrate the "Great Leader" and his son, Kim Jong Il-known as the "Dear Leader"while decrying American imperialism. It's an anti-American sentiment the BBC journalists encounter on the streets of North Korea. In "Suspicious Minds," a North Korean man eyes Daws and his camera warily, saying, "You look like an American." When Daws asks if that's a bad thing, the man replies: "Bloody bad imperialist bastard" and laughs.
At the conclusion of the journalists' weeklong visit, government guide Miss Pak says, "If the U.S. imperialists want to fight, then we will fight, so we have to prepare. But if they want to make up, if they want to talk peacefully, then we also want [peace]."
"The Road North"In the wake of the Muslim-Christian rioting that forced the relocation of the Miss World pageant, Nigeria remains a country splintered by religion, ethnicity, and class. In a journey from the modern capital, Abuja, to the traditional Islamic villages of the north, FRONTLINE/World presents Nigeria in all its contradictions and pain-from the perspective of the country's women.
FRONTLINE/World reporter Alexis Bloom explores the causes of rioting, as well as the status of women in Nigeria. In a safe house, she meets Amina Lawal, the Nigerian woman condemned to death by stoning for adultery. Lawal's death sentence triggered international protests and pageant boycotts by some Miss World contestants.
"The country is deeply divided," says Hauwa Ibrahim, Lawal's lawyer. "We are afraid that when it comes to the issue of death, the moment you stone the first woman, there will be no stopping it."
Lawal's sentence was handed down through Islamic Shari'ia law, which was adopted in the Muslim North of Nigeria after the fall of the country's military dictatorship. Increasingly, however, Nigerian women are protesting a system that exacts severe punishments for crimes such as adultery-but only, they say, for the woman involved.
"Shari'ia is supposed to treat men and women equally," says Mairo Bello, director of the Youth Development Organization in Kano, Nigeria. "As a Muslim, what I'm saying is that if it's good for the goose, let it be good for the gander. So if you punish the female, get the man responsible for that pregnancy and punish him, too."
When it comes to Shari'ia, however, fundamentalists say there is little room for compromise.
"The question of fairness is not the issue," says Islamic scholar Naiya Sada. "Once you can prove adultery under Islamic law, the punishment [that] has to follow is stoning to death. Nobody can change the punishment."
"The Future of Sound"Iceland, the remote, volcanic island in the North Atlantic, is producing some of the most sparkling, innovative pop music in the world.
"Nordic rock is hot," says FRONTLINE/World reporter Marco Werman, who travels to Reykjavik to take in the 2002 Iceland Airwaves Festival. "The music business pays serious attention to Iceland these days, and dozens of local bands are promoting their homemade CDs."
With Werman as guide, FRONTLINE/World viewers survey Iceland's music scene, from Björk to Sigur Rós to the Apparat Organ Quartet-a quirky, up and coming band whose trademark sound comes from playing cast-off recycled electric organs.
Johann Johannson, the group's leader, says that Apparat's sound is deliberately imperfect. "Something that we share, all of Apparat, is this fondness [for] the fallibility of machines-the idea that the fault, the imperfection can be interesting," he says.
At the heart of Iceland's post-rock revolution is a willingness to experiment and take chances rarely seen in the mainstream music industry. Werman, music correspondent for PRI's nationally syndicated radio program The World, captures Apparat as they conduct one of their characteristic stunts: piping their avant-garde rock over a supermarket loudspeaker, then asking puzzled shoppers to rate their music.
"There's a sense now that anything is possible," Apparat's Johannson says. "People are very excited about trying new things."
Following the broadcast, access the FRONTLINE/World Web site at pbs.org/frontlineworld for compelling interactive features, including original reports from young journalists from around the globe, news articles and features from foreign media, interviews, streaming video, interactive quizzes, and much more.
Stephen Talbot is series editor for FRONTLINE/World. KQED executive-in-charge for FRONTLINE/World is Sue Ellen McCann. WGBH executive-in-charge for FRONTLINE/World is Sharon Tiller.
FRONTLINE/World is co-produced by KQED San Francisco and WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS.
Major funding for FRONTLINE/World is provided by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by ABB, Ltd., and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
FRONTLINE/World is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
The executive producer for FRONTLINE/World is David Fanning.