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realclearworld

North Korea and Cuba: Not so different

Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of Eric Schmidt, one of Google's founders, accompanied her father and Gov. Bill Richardson on a trip to North Korea. She took some amazing photographs and amongst her many observations documented on a site she created, this one in particular sounds eerily familiar:

It's impossible to know how much we can extrapolate from what we saw in Pyongyang to what the DPRK is really like. Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments. We had zero interactions with non-state-approved North Koreans and were never far from our two minders (2, so one can mind the other).

The longer I think about what we saw and heard, the less sure I am about what any of it actually meant.

Sounds a lot like those "people-to-people" contact Cuba vacations made possible by the Obama administration, doesn't it?

Here's another observation:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-tk5nDjMiI0A/UO7QcDs6iFI/AAAAAAAABCo/_Nx3hDQOpME/s400/DSC_0165.JPG

Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up.

One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in--a noisy bunch, with media in tow--not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.

Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care? Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.

Of course, the communist propaganda favorite; The Potemkin Village. We have plenty of those in Cuba as well.

Read Sophie Schmidt's entire report HERE.

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