10 Days in North Korea takes the audience on a trip around Pyongyang, the focal point of power for the North Korean regime, to speak with citizens of what the filmmakers consider a very interesting “social experiment” that has been going on for about seventy years.
The film kicks off by demonstrating the allegiance of the Pyongyang workforce – interviews with an accomplished biologist and a few factory workers convey a genuine high opinion of “Grand Marshal” Kim Jong-un and enthusiasm towards contributing to the regime’s collective productivity. The terminology used to describe the government’s control over their daily lives is they are being “protected.”
Attention then turns to Jong-un and the regime’s militaristic approach to rule, touching on the strict prison system and last year’s widely-publicized execution of Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and his entire family for treason and an alleged attempt to stage a military coup that would have dethroned Jong-un.
In what is hard to perceive by an outside as anything more than pro-regime propaganda, a number of historic sites and annual military cache demonstrations are in place to assure the North Korean citizens of the government’s supposed military prowess. An annual “victory parade” is conducted each year to celebrate The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea military victory over the United States and the reunification of North and South Korea.
Still tied together in name, the North and South Koreas have grown apart in many ways under their supposed unified state, with even the languages spoken beginning to drift apart. The filmmakers showcase numerous families with members living on opposite sides of the border that are chosen by lottery and granted three short days to meet family members they have never been permitted to see.
In a supposed demilitarized zone on the North Korean side of the border, we speak with Kim Chang Yun, a colonel in the Korean People’s Army, about a five-meter high wall on the Korean side of the border that was completed in 1979. He claims the wall is a symbol of efforts by the United States and the South to prevent unification of the two sides. His viewpoints mirror that of the sheltered citizens, one that accepts a false self-reliant utopia crippled by a controlling government willingly deceiving and exploiting a people that have been brainwashed from birth to not question that authority.