N. Koreans shoot risky secret film


TOKYO -- Six North Koreans carrying video cameras hidden in bags or coats have risked their lives to shoot scenes of their secretive country for the world to see, their Japanese mentor said.

Video journalist Jiro Ishimaru said he had trained six North Koreans - five men and one woman who had fled to China - how to use video cameras and computers so they could return to their home and report on the hermit kingdom.

"We taught ways to write news including the ethics of journalism and ways to use computers and video cameras," he told reporters.

Ishimaru said the North Koreans had occasionally sneaked out of their country to China with video footage or photographs of scenes of various activities in North Korean cities including Pyongyang.

But security along the border has been tightened, making it difficult for them to leave, he added, although he could still contact them by phone. He said there were some people in North Korea who received the footage and photos and brought them to China.

"What we will do is quite simple," Ryu Kyung-won, one of North Korean reporters, said. "It is to record the reality of the North Koreans and reflect on ourselves through the record as a mirror. In fact, we initially thought that free speech and expression were illusions. However, we started with the belief that the will to begin is completing half the deed. We remain steadfast in the faith that if we could take one step forward, we will surely make it."

Ishimaru said his project was financed by publishing books in Korean, Japanese and English based on pictures, interviews and other data journalists obtained in their homeland. "As long as they have the will to do it, we will support them," he said.

Choi Jini, a North Korean poet who defected to South Korea in 1998 and is now editor of the project, said a major problem North Korea faced was that its leadership refused to listen to their people. "The problem of North Korea should be solved by the North Koreans themselves," she said.