National Geographic journeys 'Inside North Korea's Dynasty'

North Korea has become a focal point of US foreign-policy discussions, but having been called a "hermit king...

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 6:05 AM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 6:06 AM

North Korea has become a focal point of US foreign-policy discussions, but having been called a "hermit kingdom," one suspects many Americans know relatively little about the reigning family's brutal history -- or how that came to be. Given that, National Geographic Channel's "Inside North Korea's Dynasty" feels like a timely public service, pulling back the curtain on "the story of the Kims, a family of dictators."

The four-part documentary, scheduled over two Sunday nights, analyzes North Korea's "strange psychology," rooted in the indignities suffered under Japanese occupation before the end of World War II. Part I is thus devoted to Kim Il Sung, a guerrilla fighter who came to power and solidified his hold over the country after Korea's arbitrary division along the 38th parallel.

Asia

Continents and regions

East Asia

North Korea

Arts and entertainment

Movies

Filled with rich detail, the documentary features harrowing accounts from those who lived through those years, such as an interview with a commando who participated in a failed raid intended to kill the South Korean leader, which prompted the execution of the soldier's parents.

The narrative proceeds to the unexpected rise of son Kim Jong Il, initially seen as long shot to assume power. He's described as "a spoiled rich kid, raised like a prince," who loved movies (including a particular fondness for James Bond films) and used propaganda as the means to become his father's heir. That includes an utterly bizarre interlude in the late 1970s when he kidnapped South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his movie-star wife, Choi Eun-hee, who were forced to work in North Korea before the couple escaped.

Not for the faint of heart, the special chronicles a series of horrors, including mass starvation, using executions to squelch labor unrest and the terrorist bombing of a South Korean airliner, as North Korea chafed at having been denied a chance to help host the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

The most germane portion of "Inside North Korea's Dynasty," however, is the second half, when President George W. Bush's "access of evil" speech following the Sept. 11 attacks, coupled with the invasion of Iraq, convinced Kim Jong Il that nuclear weapons represented "the one thing that could guarantee his regime's survival."

As the film demonstrates, Kim Jong Un's ascent after his father's death in 2011 brought its own array of outrages and oddities, including the murders of his uncle and half-brother and, in a considerably lighter vein, his strange friendship with Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman.

Over a year in the making, the documentary presents plenty of previously unseen or little-seen footage as it seeks to frame the larger issues, noting that North Korea's current leader can't be understood "without understanding the family into which he was born."

"Inside North Korea's Dynasty" concludes with Kim Jong Un's summit with President Trump, a diplomatic coup that eluded his father and grandfather. While the story doesn't offer any reassuring solutions as to what comes next, as is so often said of history, North Korea's past truly does seem to be prologue.

"Inside North Korea's Dynasty" will air Nov. 11 and 18 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 106622

Reported Deaths: 4077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles516782294
Riverside7486323
San Diego7100260
Orange5923145
San Bernardino5034199
Alameda319595
Santa Clara2707140
San Francisco247341
Kern207637
San Mateo206184
Tulare184484
Fresno165832
Santa Barbara163612
Imperial163427
Contra Costa140437
Sacramento137356
Ventura106232
San Joaquin85834
Kings7143
Stanislaus68328
Sonoma5314
Solano50922
Monterey47710
Marin43614
Merced2807
San Luis Obispo2691
Yolo20723
Santa Cruz2062
Placer1999
Napa1113
Humboldt983
Madera982
San Benito852
El Dorado840
Del Norte440
Butte440
Sutter422
Nevada411
Shasta374
Mono351
Mendocino300
Yuba291
Lake230
Inyo201
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Glenn140
Amador100
Siskiyou70
Colusa50
Lassen50
Tuolumne40
Plumas40
Tehama41
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 66°
Oroville
Broken Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 74°
Paradise
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Chester
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 59°
Red Bluff
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 63°
Willows
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 66°
Rain showers and a good chance for thunderstorms are on the way for your Friday night and Saturday forecast. We'll also be much cooler and have gusty South winds this weekend. Some showers are possible early next week, but dry and warmer weather returns for the middle of next week.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events