41 Things That Actually Happen In That YouTuber's North Korea Videos
Louis Cole's dispatches from North Korea have been highly controversial.
British YouTuber Louis Cole has been criticised for his videos from North Korea, in which he has been accused of whitewashing the reality of life under the regime.
A report in Vanity Fair said he chose "to go for a light tone, oohing and ahhing over abundant food in a country ravaged by hunger.”
He has been accused of ignoring the issues of torture, execution, deliberate starvation, and arbitrary imprisonment as highlighted by a UN commission on human rights report. He has defended the videos, saying he's not an “investigative journalist”.
Below are some things that happen in Cole's videos from the capital Pyongyang.
1. Cole and his buddy Lane Terzieff get bored at the airport in China and skateboard around it.
Then they get told off by airport security.
2. They arrive in North Korea without any further hitches.
3. They go to a restaurant where the waitresses put on a singing performance that includes audience participation.
4. Then Terzieff decides to join in and add some phat beats to the traditional North Korean music, which is somewhat unexpected.
5. They get to their hotel.
Back in the room, Cole reflects on the fact that people are friendlier than he expected, and that Cuba seemed more "frozen in time" than North Korea. He then says "I can only show you what we're getting shown... There may be a whole different side that we're not getting to explore here."
6. Then he jokes that the room might be bugged.
7. They go on a coach tour to see statues of the country's leaders. They're told not to make "peace signs" in front of them.
8. Then they're told they won't see the monuments due to an "incident".
9. So they go to a coffee shop and play table football.
11. They visit Juche Tower, which Cole is told by the tour guide represents "the guiding ideology of our party".
12. They go to the top.
13. Cole lets some locals play with his dreadlocks.
As Andy Cush noted in reviewing this video, dreadlocks are not on North Korea's list of 28 state-sanctioned haircuts.
14. They visit a monument to the ruling party.
15. Then they go to a waterpark in the rain.
16. Cole and Terzieff both hit their heads on the water slide. They receive medical attention, but they're OK.
17. They go surfing on the wave machine, and teach the North Korean kids at the park how to surf.
18. Back in his room, Cole muses on his day.
He says the water park "blew" his mind, and that contrary to the media coverage that says North Korean is "frozen in time", "there might be elements of that... but there's a very active, happy civilisation getting on with their day-to-day life."
Cole describes how "certain data" from the internet has been selected and put on an intranet, "so that people can access that data and learn stuff."
20. Cole is delighted to see they have Harry Potter.
21. For some reason Cole gets a Conga line going in one of the rooms.
22. It doesn't appear to go down all that well.
"They are very confused," he laughs.
23. "We just did a conga line in the main library in Pyongyang, baby!" says Terzieff.
25. Cole says he finds it fascinating to see a war museum "from the other side."
26. The tour party meets someone who apparently helped capture a US war ship.
27. "Wow, well done," Cole says.
28. Cole scares the guide by popping his head out of a porthole on a boat.
29. He leaves the museum, saying some of what he saw was "the complete opposite to what I know to be history and what I learned when I was in South Korea." He says he'll do some research when he's got internet access.
30. They visit Kim Il-sung's birthplace.
"It's amazing that the current family who are leading this country with such prestige... started from such humble beginnings," he says.
32. They appear to piss off the tour guide by playing on the children's exhibits.
They go to the skatepark to round the day off.
33. The next day they visit a school.
34. They sit in on a school class.
A member of the tour party is asked what his childhood dreams were. "To travel the world," he replies.
35. Cole is still trying to get internet, but he decides the current options are too expensive.
36. Next up they visit the metro system.
37. At lunch the tour party put on another impromptu dance performance, before Cole high fives the waitresses on his way out.
38. Next up is a trip to a supermarket, where Cole has to change his Chinese and American currency to the North Korean one – which elsewhere he's been told he's "not allowed to use."
39. Then they go to another skatepark. There's a brief mention by Cole of "some people who followed us", but we don't hear any more about that.
41. They give gifts to one of the children there.
After this, Cole says he's been told street cleaners get paid more than teachers, and that housing, food, healthcare and education is all provided, and in the holidays they provide the population with clothing and shoes.
Back in his hotel room he says the county is "advanced in [North Korea's] own style... lots to think about."
Cole went on to make two more videos that were not based in Pyongyang.