Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles [SPEAKING KOREAN] [KOREAN PATRIOTIC SONG] SHANE SMITH: Right after we launched VBS, people started saying, North Korea. Why don't you go to North Korea? Why? Because nobody knows anything about North Korea. So we were fascinated by it. And we tried to get in for a year and a half, but couldn't because North Korea doesn't let anyone in. They do not want anyone to corrupt their 100% homogeneous society that is 100% percent ruled by one person, Kim Jong Il. In the end, we just got so frustrated that we ended up flying to South Korea and saying, well at least we can go to the DMZ and put our foot into North Korea and at least see a little bit of it from the South. Let's go see the DMZ, which is the demilitarized zone, which is the border between North Korea and South Korea. Since the Korean War ended, it's been the most militarized zone on Earth with two million estimated troops on the North Korean side, about 500,000 on the South Korean side. Missiles pointed at each other, artillery tanks. There's three million mines on the border itself. In fact, there's so many mines that the North Koreans built invasion tunnels, where they went 70 meters down. And they're like, we could be in Seoul in an hour and a half. Now the CIA and the American army have found a number of these. But they think that there's even more. It's been called the end of the world. And it's the closest you can get to seeing North Korea. Getting to the DMZ isn't easy. It's only an hour and a half north of Seoul, but you have to go through about 15 checkpoints. Then you have to go through United Nations indoctrination session, where they're like, don't point. Don't look at them. Don't take any pictures. Don't do anything. We're only going to be there for 2 and 1/2 minutes. We're at the last stop in South Korea before going to the DMZ. This here is Freedom Bridge. Right after the Korean War, it was the last time the North and South exchanged POWs. And on the other side of that now, a little further back is North Korea. Right here, it's kind of like a theme park. But as you see, just beyond the theme park, hidden by the trees, there's barbed wire and land mines and checkpoints everywhere. So it's a very bizarre theme park. A lot of families come, and they put up messages or prayers for their family in the North that they've been split and never allowed to see. So they'll come here and make a pilgrimage and say, OK, this is what I'm going to put up. Someone's put up some golf balls. I think the South's going to lose pretty damn quick. They're going to be rave soldiers brought up on Playstation versus the North Koreans who eat grass and sleep with their AK. And so you get off the bus. And you look across, and there's North Korea. They're like, that's North Korea. Get back on the bus. You could start World War III. They really get you terrified. They let you into one barracks room. And the barracks room is half in North Korea, half in South Korea. And they set that up so they could have talks. But it's the only place where you can go and actually set foot technically into North Korea. And this is as close as 99.9% of the people in the world will ever get into getting into North Korea. And people are like, that's North Korea. So that piece of concrete-- The gravel is South, and the concrete is demarcation line. And the sand is North. SHANE SMITH: No what? SHANE SMITH: No pointing. Right, right, right. No finger pointing. FEMALE SPEAKER: You could take a picture with the two soldiers. SHANE SMITH: We're like, dude we have to get into North Korea. We have to get in. GEORGE W. BUSH: North Korea has a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. [CHANTING IN KOREAN IN UNISON] SHANE SMITH: We couldn't get in. We tried through the embassy, through press, through Swedish embassy, British embassy, Canadian embassy, German embassy. And I was saying to myself, what in God's name is going on here. So we were interviewing North Korean refugees in South Korea. And a few of them had said, just go to Shenyang and bribe the consulate there. There. That's what everybody else does. So we were in South Korea. And we said, why not? We're here. So we flew up to China. We had nothing to lose. And we met the consul in Shenyang, paid a visa fee. And we left our passports there and, in fact, most of our money. And we went back to this North Korean hotel. We had to stay in one of their hotels in northern China. And we were supposed to hear back from them at 4:00 the next afternoon. At 6:00 in the morning, there's a banging on our door. And we wake up all discombobulated. And they're like, we have to go now. Here's your passport. Let's go. And we're like, where are we going? Where are we going? And they don't give you any time to react, not one second. They take you right out from the room at 6:00 in the morning and get you on the plane. Shenyang, you got to come to Shenyang to stay here in the North Korean hotel with concrete beds. [KOREAN MUSIC] SHANE SMITH: You're not allowed to bring anything into North Korea. You can't bring a cellphone. You can't bring a computer. You can't bring any printed material, any music. They don't want you to have anything that you can even leave there. In fact, they don't want you to bring any type of camera in that is too sophisticated, no telephoto lenses, nothing. You can bring basically a point and shoot, and that's it. In fact, when you go in, you have to sign a thing saying, I'm not bringing in anything. And let me tell you, if they find that you did, you're in deep shit. And then you're flying from Shenyang to Pyongyang in North Korea. And then you go, holy shit, we're going to North Korea. And with the express purpose of shooting, which you're not allowed to do, with the express purpose of making a documentary, which you're not allowed to do. This is terrifying. So from the first minute I got there, I was shit scared. [CHANTING IN KOREAN IN UNISON] SHANE SMITH: The first sight of Pyongyang. It's pretty dismal. [KOREAN MUSIC] SHANE SMITH: We're in a hotel that's about 47 stories tall. Nobody's in it. There's only one floor with any people on it. We're in the hotel room. And we've been told that they're bugged, that they're listening to us. I don't know if whispering is going to help. That might be where it all stems from. Hello, hello. Oh. Come in. Come in, Tokyo. Hello. Hello. Hello. We're here. Right after we get there, we were taken for our first meal. And the first time you eat in North Korea, it's a sign of the very weird things to come. [SPEAKING KOREAN] SHANE SMITH: This is where we go, here? Table. FEMALE SPEAKER 2: Sit please. FEMALE SPEAKER 2: Kumgangsan SHANE SMITH: We're in the big banquet room. As you can see, it's huge. There's about 20 women who are getting ready for our dinner. First of all, they give you about three or four courses of absolutely inedible food. It's just matter. It's like fried matter. And you're going, yeah, yeah. But you're waiting for everyone to fill in. When's this banquet happening? When's the banquet? There is no banquet. Where is everyone? It's not very busy here. They realize they've gotten so much bad press for not having food that they want to show, oh there's plenty of food. Food everywhere. And they're carefully laying out the food the whole time you're eating. And then as you leave, you notice they're pulling all the things they've just carefully laid into little tiny trays that are carefully going to bring back to keep for the next day. And you're just sitting there by yourself eating your matter going, OK I've come to crazy land. SHANE SMITH: It's really gray and heavy duty outside. I'm going to go downstairs to meet our guards in 15 minutes. It's maybe the weirdest I've ever felt in my life. The first thing you realize in North Korea is you're not a tourist. You're on a tour. You come in. You're shown what you're shown. You're escorted out. You're escorted the whole time. You're never allowed on your own. You can't leave the hotel, which is on an island, until your guards come and get you. You have a guard, a guide, and secret police. The first place they take you is to the Pueblo, which is an American spy ship that they captured in the '60s during the Cold War. And they docked it in downtown Pyongyang. And the indoctrination starts. SHANE SMITH: They force you to sit there and watch this indoctrination video about how the American imperialists are terrible, and they're shitting on the peace-loving people of North Korea. And look how terrible America is. Look how terrible Japan is. And how we got their ship, and it shows that they were spying on us and how evil they are. Really incredibly anti-American. SHANE SMITH: This is very freaky. On the way here, there's a big poster that says the way to peace is a point of a bayonet. And all the North Koreans are brought here. So you're sitting there as the only Caucasian going, oh good, as everyone's staring at you with daggers. And you're just sitting there going, OK. Great, I get it. There's going to be a lot more of this. SHANE SMITH: So every day around 6:30 in the morning, our guides and our guards would come to pick us up. They'd put us in a truck, drive us out to some monument, and you'd drive for two hours. And the first thing you notice are, there's no cars. The villages have no electricity. There's no nothing. Nothing's happening anywhere.