Uncooperative interviewee throws wrench in KCNA documentary production

North Koreans in Pyongyang reading the Rodong Sinmun in a subway station
North Koreans in Pyongyang reading the Rodong Sinmun in a subway station. Image: Daily NK

Production on a recent North Korean documentary became complicated when Korean Central News Agency reporters failed to elicit the required comments extolling the Kim family during an in-person interview, local sources report.

“Reporters from the Korean Central Broadcasting Committee came to do a story on a 100-year-old woman living in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province. But upon their arrival, she refused to answer their core question in the way they wanted for the documentary,” a source in Pyongyang reported.

The story was a special broadcast scheduled ahead of the SPA elections and focused on the experiences of North Koreans that had reached the age of 100 years and older.

As life expectancy rapidly increases across the world, so too does the number of centenarians. In North Korea, however, such cases remain extremely rare.

The broadcasters told the elderly woman in a preliminary meeting at her house with provincial party officials and journalists that she should speak about the superiority of North Korea’s system and extol the Kim leadership.

The interview went mostly as planned, but as it was wrapping up, she failed to note that she has “lived a long life thanks to the loving care of Supreme Leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” according to a source in North Hamgyong Province.

Throughout the interview, the elderly interviewee appeared to have trouble hearing, but every time her children would repeat this consummate question, she would answer with, “My teeth are good, so I ate well,” or “I was just born with a strong constitution.”

Consequently, the reporters eventually turned to elicit the same information from her children, who reiterated that their mother often showed symptoms of cognitive impairment due to her advanced age. However, according to a separate source in North Hamgyong Province, those who know her were dismissive of that explanation, noting that she “typically hears well and her mind’s all there.”

“Her reaction would surely have been a bigger problem had she been young, but with someone so old like that, what can they [the authorities] really do? You wouldn’t believe how fast the news has spread among people though. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious.”