To this day, North Korea is the most isolated country in the world. I have been to North Korea eight times in the past 12 years. But on this trip, I wanted to explore the country's 880-mile border with China. Watch my ABC News documentary to see a glimpse inside the reclusive country from just across the river in China.


Comments: 104 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

Rick299019 karma

As someone who has been to the country frequently, what do you think the greatest misconception of North Korea is?

BobWoodruff30 karma

I would have to say that in the country's capital of Pyongyang they seem to be westernized in many ways. Of course there are many soldiers walking around in their uniforms but for the others they now have american looking clothes and shoes. They now have cell phones although they cannot extend outside the city. What we really don't see are the countrysides and the prison camps. So I don't know what our misconceptions would be there.

aaeko18 karma

Are you really only allowed to film/photograph North Korean citizens at certain times and in specific locations? If so, what are the citizens of North Korea like when they are not being photographed, are they happy? Do they live in fear?

*edit: spelling

BobWoodruff21 karma

We make requests to shoot everything but they make that call. They only want us to shoot what makes them look strong and successful. Never to see the poor and abused. We just don't get close relationships with them generally so i don't know the truth about their happiness. They seem to be.

john_stuart_kill11 karma

With all the rhetoric flying around, mixed with the stories of almost cartoonish absurdity from the regime all the time, what would you say is the biggest/most common misconception that the average Westerner has about North Korea and the Kim regime these days?

BobWoodruff18 karma

Their intelligence. The people in the elite class are extremely educated. That is especially with technology. They have developed nuclear bombs, rockets, engines etc faster than ever predicted.

cordcutta10 karma

How accurate does the media portray North Korea?

BobWoodruff10 karma

We just report what we see and what they say. We're never engaged in political debates and discussions so there is no real question about accuracy as there is in the debates in the US. Of course the accuracy of our "minders" statements that is hard to say. We can generally know that they are twisting the facts but some of their statements are unproven.

BakedPotatoBoy6 karma

Did you ever feel that your life was in danger or that you needed to get out of where you were asap ?

BobWoodruff4 karma

There were a couple of moments when I thought we were going to be held for questioning. I took pictures of soldiers which was supposed to be illegal. But i was never afraid of being arrested or killed.

almondparfitt6 karma

Did the North Koreans you met share any of their thoughts about the U.S. with you? Thanks for reporting on this.

BobWoodruff9 karma

The people on the streets always tell us officially that they hate us. But our minders who follow us everywhere and are very educated they don't say this. They just give us details about how they differ from us. They criticize our president and tell us that they will resist any attack by the US. They have been overseas, or at least many of the minders have, so they know what they are talking about.

TooShiftyForYou5 karma

Is the average North Korean citizen aware of the propaganda they are being fed and just choose to stay silent for their own well being or do they seem to genuinely believe it?

BobWoodruff14 karma

I think that they believed it more than now. in the doc you can see that i have been going there for more than 12 years and back then i really felt that they consider the leaders god like. Since then more have studied overseas. More importantly there are radio connections along the borders with both China and South Korea. More social media. Cell phones and conversations with family member who worked in China. Better every year.

anto01925 karma

How North Korea see Europe in the geopolitical context? Thanks

BobWoodruff6 karma

I haven't really engaged them on this topic so sadly I don't really know. I have spoken to defectors who mostly know about Asian geopolitics.

Dogenewnew3 karma

What is North Koreans' general reaction to the missiles tests that Kim is doing, and to the threats to the US?

BobWoodruff11 karma

NKs don't really know much about them other than the propaganda from the leader. And it is always hard to see what they really know. They have to cheer and smile. But it looks like they are supportive and happy with kim jong un. that's what they look like.

parmdaddy3 karma

They have to cheer and smile.

Where did you learn this? Or rather, who told you this? Just curious about where your info and impressions are coming from

BobWoodruff14 karma

From defectors in South Korea.

El_Quetzal3 karma

aside from the U.S.A, what do north Koreans think about other countries?

BobWoodruff12 karma

Depends on their history etc. They have just a few allies but even they are starting to dislike NK under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. China is their number one friend but it is starting to lose its faith. Nuclear bombs and tests are frightening even to China. As you could see in our "Inconvenient Border" doc we got out yesterday, China is no longer so connected to NK because of Kim Jong Un. He has never been to China and vice versa for Xi Jingping. Their other strong historical ally is Russia. But they essentially ended their military and economic support of NK in the mid-90s. That led to starvation and mass death in NK so that relationship has descended.

a66hawks142 karma

How difficult is it to get into N.K.? What are some of the restrictions they place on foreigners?

BobWoodruff3 karma

As reporters we need to get approval after we file our requests. Tourists have been able to go in fairly easily with established tour groups. NK loves the income. Of course the Trump administration made it illegal for american tourists to enter. We'll see if that changes.

FloridaLawns1 karma

Do you feel North Korea is unnecessarily vilified and possible even misunderstood in the US?

Edit: To correct typo. Fell was changed to feel.

BobWoodruff2 karma

I think it not yet clear exactly what is happening behind the walls so none of us don't fully understand what their lives are like and what they are thinking. Defectors have told their stories so they are our best sources of facts. Perhaps the most important uncertainty is about Kim Jong Un. We have just started in our reporting to figure out his thoughts.

marxroxx1 karma

Do you play basketball?

BobWoodruff2 karma

Yes but badly. Not as good as Rodman.

Rolloverbeethoven931 karma

How's the food over there? Is it similar to South Korean cuisine (if you've had that as well)?

BobWoodruff1 karma

it is pretty much the same but with less range. In the hotels where we stay the food is getting better every year. I don't know about the countryside.