I recommend this short illustrated talk given by an American academic (no: businessman – see comment) who taught at Beijing University and who went with his family on a trip to North Korea. Here is part of what he says:
This is a woman that was directing traffic with great resolve and military precision outside the front door of our hotel. We watched her for at least ten minutes, as she moved and rotated with complete control of her little domain, and we didn’t see a single car go by. [Laughter] I mean, you do have to wonder what they think. …
He then sees one of those giant stadium displays, done with thousands of big hand-held squares which keep changing.
This big display, which sat opposite most of the people is just a huge communist video monitor, one person per pixel. The resolution of this screen was about seventy by four hundred. The frame rate was one to two hertz, and you could get up to two frames a second, before muscle fatigue set in.
And then we see this screen in action. It is actually rather impressive, especially when you consider how much the poor bastards doing it probably get to eat each day. And they’re the lucky ones.
It often happens that people who report not on “the situation” in wherever it is, but simply on what they happen themselves to see, can supply an extraordinarily vivid feeling of what it must be like there. They don’t tell the whole story. But then again, they don’t pretend to.
Meanwhile, the latest “news” from North Korea, is that they are building a huge underground fighter runway, right near the border with the hated South, Thunderbirds style. It is supposed to be invulnerable to military attack. Fat chance. I wonder how many people will die while making it.