North Korea: Crossing the Line. BBC 4 10.50, written and directed by Daniel Gordon.
Posted by celticman on Tue, 23 Apr 2013
North Korea is the kind of place that Team America: World Police can make fun of with impunity. But with KimJong-Un, son of Kim Jong-Il 'testing' rockets and threatening nuclear war the world seems nearer Armageddon. This documentary gives some insight into North Korea. But mass starvation and the death of perhaps millions to hunger is quickly passed over. The 'labour' camps in which three generations of families are send to be routinely tortured, to starve and to die are not mentioned. But that's no surprise. What we have here is a bizarre story not about the 25 million North Koreans, but about five GI Americans, from broken homes, that were stationed in South Korea, and crossed over the demilitarised zone -a bit of duct tape- and defected to North Korea. The first and perhaps most interesting, as the documentary spends most time with him, is James Joseph Dresnock. He defected in May 1962,(it's not clear if another GI, Abashier, had defected shortly before or after him). Three more were to follow up to about 1965. They were used for propaganda purposes. Dresnock said that in the first couple of year they passed the time playing cards and drinking. But they missed home and walked into the Russian embassy seeking asylum. They didn't get it. They were returned to the North Koreans to be re-educated. Dresnock learned the Korean language and they later starred in a movie. Kim Jong- il was a big movie fan. Although it doesn't mention it here he kidnapped a South Korean director to help him make films. It seems he wasn't the only one. Charles Robert Jenkins one of the other defectors had a child with another kidnap victim: Hitomi Sogi, a Japanese citizen. It's not clear how many others were kidnapped, Dernock's latest wife was Togalese. The GI's and there families were privileged citizens and their children attended the same prestigious school as the North Korean leader's children. Dresnock comes across well. He speaks well and is an interesting character. Jenkin's accused him of beating him, but with up to four million dead in the initial conflict and a few million since then, well, go figure. Jenkin's was also looking for an alibi. Hitomi Sogi was repatriated and he wanted to join her. Jenkins served thirty days in prison for his crime of treason. Dernock had a few things to say about that. This was filmed in 2006. He'd ischaemic heart disease was a heavy smoker and is probably dead now. One of the images that stuck with me was him fishing with a pole with other elderly Koreans off a pier, or slipway. The fish they caught seemed to me tiny, the kind you'd imagine getting flung back. They were cooked over an open fire and eaten. This tells us more about Dresnock and the way the elite North Korean establishment works. I pity his children. Dresnock choose to defect. His kids stand out in the same way he does or did. They don't and won't have that choice of escaping. China wants a solution for the simple reason that famine pushes millions of North Korean citizens across the border. Dresnock's children would be easy to pick out as being different.