Micheal Palin in North Korea

I just rewatched the first episode  of Michael Palin’s new channel Five series on North Korea, because I missed bits of it when it was on tv a couple of days ago. I must say I found it quite intriguing – I didn’t think Channel five were  into making programs like that. They have obviously taken a format they know works on channels like bbc1 and applied it to the most despotic country on the map, so that we glimpse a place so foreign and frightening that it quite beggars belief. It was fascinating to glimpse a country we all know so little about. Palin makes his usual show of being the affable middle-class Englishman abroad, attempting to be both serious and vaguely comic simultaneously, but below that we get a glimpse of something truly puzzling. What we are being shown here might well be propaganda, but the question is ‘whose?’ Are we seeing what the North Koreans want us to see, or are we  seeing what Channel Five want us to show us about North Korea? Through Palin this program projects the image of the quintessential Englishman abroad exploring what we have all been told  is a brutal despotic country, but to what extent is that in itself a contrivance? How can we be sure that in itself is not just as manipulative as the North Korean regime is supposed to be? or am I being over analytical? It’s a fascinating program either way, and one I look forward to watching more of.

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