A Glimpse Inside The Horror That Is North Korea

The London Telegraph has video that purportedly comes from North Korean dissidents intent on capturing the reality of life inside their country, it is nothing other than horrifying and utterly sad:

Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    I think we all are aware that NK is real horror show.

    But instead of spending time thinking deep thoughts about how North Korea sucks, why don’t we ask ourselves how many people will die of exposure on the streets of the greatest country in the world this winter?

    For extra credit, we can ask why we don’t give a shit.

    There’s an old Buddhist saying: We each have three faces. The one that we show to the world, the one that we show to ourselves, and the one that is truly ours.

  2. This is haunting. I’ve been reading recently on their work camps that have now been mapped more effectively via Google. It’s chilling hearing about 50,000 people in one camp all fighting each other for vermin to eat. This is shocking and unreal it is happening right now. And nothing is being done. Or at least nothing that I’ve heard of. Heartbreaking.

  3. matt says:

    I’ve seen some of this video already but I cannot remember where.

  4. Andre Kenji says:

    I find troubling the stories about Americans dying of cold in the streets, but it would be very easy to ban North Korea from international competitions. North Korea should not be allowed to send teams to international soccer competitions or the Olympics. It´s true that FIFA even had a man involved with arms dealers as president, but allowing North Korea to send a team to the World Cup was a low blow.

  5. PT says:


    because they’re just takers who should’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps…

  6. michael reynolds says:

    I know we don’t want to start any more wars. But it’s a hard thing knowing that we have all these excellent weapons and all these incredibly capable soldiers and yet these co*ksuckers are still in power. If anyone ever needed killing it’s the regime in North Korea.

  7. walt moffett says:


    Ask yourself on the state and national level, do the homeless (and their advocates) bring as many votes/donations as talking points on abortion, guns, gay rights, and sticking a thumb in the eye of the opposition?

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I know we don’t want to start any more wars.

    Especially not on the Korean peninsula. Seoul is within range of something like 25,000 artillery guns. I think I am exaggerating, but I don’t think by much. Never mind the nukes, it would be obliterated in the first 24 hrs.

    Otherwise, thanx for starting my wkend with such a happy video Doug.

  9. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I don’t think that’s an exaggeration–I heard a similar number when I was in the military. And of course there are also rockets. We expected Seoul would be rubbled in very short order.

    My next-door neighbor is an intel analyst whose area of expertise is Korea. I’ll ask him if he has any unclassified numbers on this.

  10. Dave Schuler says:


    I’m surprised that you don’t see the distinction between North Korea where its own people are starving and dying because of the government’s actions and the United States where people are dying of cold despite our efforts.

    I don’t know what the situation is in San Francisco but in Chicago cold snaps like the one we’ve just had induce teams of volunteers and city employees to go out and canvass the number of people who are sleeping in the streets. In Chicago it is estimated that there are fewer than 2,000 unsheltered homeless, primarily the mentally ill. There are empty spots in shelters but some people, whether out of safety concerns or inability to form enough mental composure to solve their problems or some other reason, prefer the streets.

    Do you favor involuntary forcible institutionalization? Is there another way to ensure that not a single person dies of exposure?

  11. Anderson says:

    Do you favor involuntary forcible institutionalization?

    Why not? Isn’t it cruel to pretend that the mentally ill “choose” to freeze?

    Our society’s choice to save $$ on institutions at the cost of increased misery is despicable.

  12. Al says:

    What @Anderson said. I’d be interested to see how much of a savings shutting down mental institutions really gained us. That was largely predicated on the idea that the severely mentally ill would stay on their meds, which turned out not to be the case.

  13. Mikey says:

    @Al: @Anderson:

    You should keep in mind that monetary savings was not the only rationale for deinstitutionalization. The movement was not started by penny-pinching conservatives, but by liberals who were, in many cases rightly, horrified by the conditions to which many patients in state mental hospitals were subjected. My own paternal grandfather was among those for whom poor treatment meant a life spent disabled and confined.

    But you’re right, the expectation that the severely mentally ill would be able to manage their own care has not been met (to say the least). Now it has been made so difficult to involuntarily commit someone for treatment that thousands of people who should be, aren’t.

  14. anjin-san says:

    @ Dave Schuler

    I’m surprised that you don’t see the distinction between North Korea where its own people are starving and dying because of the government’s actions and the United States where people are dying of cold despite our efforts.

    Is that really how you read what I am saying? Perhaps I need to use smaller words or something. My point is that we hear endless stories here in America about the horrors in other lands. And we hear a lot of “USA #1!!!” chatter. I am arguing for a bit less finger pointing and a bit more introspection.

    We do indeed make efforts to alleviate misery among the poor, but they are inadequate, and one of our major political parties is working hard to make them even less adequate. Yet we have billions for corporate welfare. We are building a bridge to the 19th century.

    And yes, I do favor forcible institutionalization for the profoundly mental ill.

  15. walt moffett says:


    As you point out, our government seems much more willing to favor those who have than those who don’t. However, there don’t seem be any viable national level 2016 candidates who could reverse that trend.

    BTW, a thought experiment what would happen if in lieu of Fleet Week in San Francisco and New York, the Navy sent construction battalions to build a shelter?

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ walt moffett

    in lieu of Fleet Week in San Francisco and New York, the Navy sent construction battalions to build a shelter?

    That’s a fine idea.

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Speaking as someone who lives on the penninsula in Daejeon (understood to be on the targeting list for a future war as the central hub of the railway system), I kind of object to the notion that the world isn’t doing anything about the problems of North Korean life. The UN has brought economic war to the citizen’s of NK through sanctions and has heaped about as much misery on the population as the international community is capable of inflicting. For the first time in modern Korean history in 2011, the government authorized pet food manufacturers to add rice (which has been considered too valuable to feed to animals) to the formulae of pet foods. This was done because surplus rice was starting to spoil, but President Lee believed that it was “unconscionable” to send the surplus rice to NK when they were unwilling to return to the 6-way nuclear control talks. The US balked at sending nutritional aid unusable by the military the same year for the same reason, IIRC. It seems to me that the international community is doing enough. And new sanctions were just implemented. The beat goes on….

    Now if some individuals are truly interested in actually helping NK people, one organization that I know of provides machinery to make soymilk and supplies to NK orphanages and day care centers. That organization is called First Steps. I expect that there are other similar agencies that do other things. If we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Dave Schuler: I called the police that terribly cold night to report a beggar near Ogilvie train station–was worried that he would freeze to death without even realizing the danger he was in.

    One feels so helpless about these people. Half of them are mentally ill but a sizable number are also just plain grifters pushing sob stories. I’ve gotten really grumpy about it and have started telling people who try to tell me that they “just need a dollar to get home” that they should bloody well walk.

  19. @michael reynolds: North Korea’s military strength is vastly overrated. Everyone talked about Iraq in the 90s having such a strong army – you would know better than I would, considering our relative ages – but Iraq cracked under the first deluge; they didn’t have the organization, food or morale to win. The same would happen to North Korea, only on a different level.