An Interview with North Korea’s UK Spokesman
North Korea has been getting some fairly rank press in recent years. And in times of such deplorable slander from the “monopoly capitalist media of the West,” we must seek to heal these wounds of persecution, these sores of injustice, and hereby mount a unified resistance.
Oh worthy warrior of Mt Paekdu
leading the stout hearted partisans of
the mighty KPRA to shatter the chains
of Japanese imperialism, shock brigade of
world fascism, to dispatch
the murderous Japs to their doom
Or so Dermot Hudson might think, the UK’s delegate for the DPRK’s cultural-liaison wing, the Korean Friendship Association (KFA). Hudson is also the poet of the subtle words you just read (but probably didn’t). Now, it’s pretty hard to imagine such dubious sermonizing to come from a white guy brought up in England, and you’d be forgiven for thinking these words are lifted directly from an early Kim Il-sung essay, or even a revered piece of Kim Jong-un cinema. But Hudson is truly impassioned by the unity of the people, the enrichment of the “Juché idea,” and the resistance to “Jap” and US imperialist aggressors. He is equally enamored of the Eternal President Kim Il-sung; of Dear Leader, Respected Leader, Great Leader, Wise Leader, Unique Leader, Great Marshal, Amazing Politician, Savior, Invincible and Ever-Triumphant General Kim Jong-il; and of Marshal, Dear Leader Kim Jong-un (he’s young, and the titles come with time).
In other words, this guy is up shit creek. Naturally, I decided to contact him. He told me about the times he saw Kim Jong-il, the famine, Western media, and the attitude toward weed. I learned, among other things, that Kim Jong-il moved with a “very fast, dignified bearing,” that North Korea is strictly not like Ethiopia in the 70s, and that the Pyongyang metro only costs three cents!
VICE: How did you acquire your position as UK spokesman for the KFA?
Dermot Hudson: I had been the chairman of Juche Idea Study Group of England and the vice president of the old Society for Friendship with Korea. I joined KFA in 2001, about six months after it was formed, and was appointed official delegate for the UK by the KFA International Organization Committee.
Have you met either Kim Jong-il or Kim Jong-un?
I did not meet them in person but saw them in the distance. I was within a couple 100 feet of Dear Respected Marshal Kim Jong-un, and I saw great comrade Kim Jong-il at a national meeting in April 2002. He looked younger than he was and moved very fast, with a dignified bearing. I have seen Marshal Kim Jong-un in the distance about four or five times. In April 2012, at a military parade, he waved at the crowd. He looked like a very happy person.
My Lunch with One of the World’s Top Human Rights Violators
I don’t ever remember getting a call. I don’t remember what they told us on the way. All I can remember is being hurried through to a back room of some regional Russian airport and waiting.
You’ll have to forgive me, a lot of this story is blurry. See, when a Russian offers you vodka, you must accept. Now, I’m not one to turn down a free drink regardless of international diplomacy, but in early 2007 I wasespecially eager to improve the image of Americans abroad (which, at the time, was “Jabba the Hut wearing a cowboy hat screeching ‘WHY DON’T YOU TALK ENGLISH.’”)
I asked our translator when we’d be arriving in Sochi, and he just smiled and shook his head. He said goodbye, wished me luck and safety, and left. My two lead producers, Eric— a charming little schmoozer whose habit of partying like he was still in college never got in the way of his work, and Debbie— a depressing, oblivious, lump who hyphenated her three syllable long maiden name to her husband’s three syllable long surname even though they fucking rhymed, were called over to a corner to talk with Vlad, our fixer. When shooting a show abroad, it pays to have a local on your team to navigate the sea of con-men wearing official uniforms — and Vlad, an imposing scowl of a man, almost certainly ex-KGB, was as good as you could get. The conversation was in heated whispers; short, angry bursts of air punctuated by flailing arm gestures.
Eric, visibly shaking off the news, approached me.
“The Russians gave away our fucking hotel rooms to the IOC. There’s not a goddamned room left in all of Sochi.”
I stuttered a bit before I could even get out a “Wait— what? Where are we—”
“Oh don’t worry,” he sneered, “they’ve got a plan for us. They’re sending us to Chechnya.”
Now, at this point, my only knowledge of Chechnya was a vague recollection of that Moscow theater hostage crisis— y’know, the one where like 50 Chechen rebels stormed a theater and the Russians unceremoniously gassed the shit out of everyone, killing like 150 people? Yeah, that one. As we made preparations to board the small twin-engine jet, I had no idea what we were getting into. For all I knew, Chechnya was a full-on fucking war-zone. Rumors started swirling that the last American to set in foot in Chechnya was sent home in a body bag, some AP reporter who got herself exploded at a soccer game. This was NOT what I signed up for. We weren’t here to shoot goddamned Restrepo, we were here to produce a fucking beauty pageant.
Bahrain’s PR Campaign Is Doomed to Fail
Hey, do you happen to be the proprietor of a family-run dictatorship in the Middle East? Tired of seeing stories about your country that are all, “Bahrain Princess Accused of Torture” and “Teenager Killed in Bahrain Anniversary Protests” and “The US Sold a Bunch of Weapons to Bahrain During Its Brutal Crackdown” and even “King of Bahrain Beats Up Arab Pop Star on a Yacht”? That sure is some bad “optics,” as they say in the business, and you probably can’t repair your reputation solely through articles titled “Bahrain a Land of tolerance…” in government-run media outlets, especially when that ellipsis might be an indication that even the “journalists” on your payroll can barely believe the shit they’re writing.
One way to solve your image problem would to welcome reform and stop committing gross human rights violations—ha, ha, just kidding! Clearly that’s not on the table, so you need to spend millions on PR and invite journalists to your brand new Formula 1 race track to see how lovely it is. According to Bahrain Watch, that’s what the country’s regime has been doing: It’s spent at least $32 million on image management since the start of the Arab Spring. I’m familiar with this because one of these companies threatened to sue the Guardianfor libel after I wrote an article with Nabeel Rajab which accused the Bahraini security forces of torturing employees at the F1 track. The PR firm did not question that torture had taken place, just that it had not happened on the premises of the F1 track. The libel threat was eventually withdrawn after a footnote was added to the article, but the point was made: We have money and we will bully and threaten you if you criticize us.
Hezbollah’s Theme Park
Hezbollah has built a multi-million dollar theme park celebrating its military victories over Israel. It’s the latest PR offensive from the Iranian-funded Shia Muslim militia its followers call the “Party of God.” Host Ryan Duffy heads to Lebanon to visit this bizarre tourist site to learn how this group that started as a ragtag militia in the 1980s has skillfully used propaganda to transform itself into a military and political force to be reckoned with, and how anti-Hezbollah groups are trying to compete in this war of words.