Aug 18, 2016

    YouTube Star Louis Cole Denies Making Propaganda For North Korea

    "I am not a investigative journalist. I don’t really do political commentary."

    Louis Cole, a popular British YouTuber, has recently come under fire after releasing a series of travel videos from North Korea that failed to report on the harsh realities of life in the authoritarian regime.

    FunForLouis / Via

    Cole has uploaded seven videos from North Korea in the last week, consisting of visits to statues, museums, and even a water park. In a description for one of the videos, Cole wrote: "I’m trying to focus on positive things in the country and combat the purely negative image we see in the Media [sic]."

    Vanity Fair said that in the videos he chose "instead to go for a light tone, oohing and ahhing over abundant food in a country ravaged by hunger."

    Cole's YouTube channel, Fun for Louis, has 1.8 million subscribers and more than 200 million views to date.

    North Korea has been accused of a series of major human rights abuses. In 2014 a UN commission on human rights found evidence there of torture, execution, deliberate starvation, and arbitrary imprisonment.

    In a video uploaded on Wednesday, Cole defended his videos, saying he wants to focus on the more positive aspects of any country he visits – and that he’s not a “investigative journalist".

    View this video on YouTube

    FunForLouis / Via

    Cole also denied being paid by the North Korean government and said he does not agree with the political ideology of the country.

    He said:

    I've been to developed countries, developing countries, with a range of political problems and social justice issues. Two of my favourite cities, Cape Town and Rio, have the biggest wealth disparity in the world, but I'm looking for the beautiful, positive things. I want to connect with local people, learn about the culture and the country.

    I am not a investigative journalist, I don't really do political commentary, and there are other places on the internet and there are other places you can go to find those kind of things.

    Cole was on an organised tour of the country, which meant he could only visit places sanctioned by government officials.

    Fun for Louis / Via

    In a recent Panorama documentary, a BBC journalist went to North Korea on a tour and commented that many of the places were controlled by the government. He said the trip felt staged and said it was "difficult to get an idea what is real and not real".

    Cole said he shouldn't be criticised for showing viewers only what he was able to see.

    This trip to North Korea, as many of my trips, I went on as a tourist and we went on an organised tour, so the same kind of tour anyone going there as a tourist would experience, and as much as we can be sceptical as how much was real and how much was staged, that is what I experienced and I can only share with you what I experienced. ...

    I do know what is going on out there. I am not being naive to it all. And maybe I should have, at the beginning of each vlog, encouraged people to go and do their own research and find out all that they can about North Korea.

    YouTuber Philip De Franco published a video describing Cole's visit to North Korea as like visiting a mansion where you were only shown nice things, while something bad was hidden in other rooms.

    Philip DeFranco / Via

    "It's like you went into a giant mansion and there's are horrible things happening in a ton of the rooms," De Franco said. "Like, people are starving to death, there's rapes, there's murders, but your guided tour only takes you to the indoor heated pool and the room with the XBox and the PS4, and then you leave and people only talk about the really good stuff."

    Cole responded to De Franco, saying that visiting mansions and connecting with people in the "nicer rooms" might help "the entire household".

    FunForLouis / Via

    He said:

    My only question to that is: What about the people, in the house, that are in those rooms, in the nicer rooms? I think the only way to make a difference is to connect with those people and show them love and maybe that will impact the entire household...

    On Thursday, Cole released a new music video filmed in North Korea called "Surfin' in the DPRK".

    View this video on YouTube

    Louis Cole was contacted for further comment by BuzzFeed News and had not responded by the time of publication.

    Scott Bryan is a TV editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

    Contact Scott Bryan at

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