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Documentarian: ‘North Korean pizza is actually pretty good’

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Jamie Weinstein
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      Jamie Weinstein

      Jamie Weinstein is Senior Editor of The Daily Caller. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, the New York Daily News and The Washington Examiner, among many other publications. He also worked as the Collegiate Network Journalism Fellow at Roll Call Newspaper and is the winner of the 2011 "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" contest. A regular on Fox News and other cable news outlets, Weinstein received a master’s degree in the history of international relations from the London School of Economics in 2009 and a bachelor's degree in history and government from Cornell University in 2006. He is the author of the political satire, "The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama's True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer."

Rob Montz confesses that perhaps the most interesting detail he discovered while putting together his new documentary about North Korea was that the Hermit Kingdom actually has excellent pizza.

“Sadly, what’s irresistibly jumping to mind right now indicates precisely which organ holds the most sway in my life: North Korean pizza is actually pretty good,” Montz told The Daily Caller in an email interview about his documentary,”Juche Strong.”

“We had some our last day there. Ham and cheese. Right amount of sauce. Crust was properly cooked. Washed that down with room-temperature coke.”

Montz traveled to the country many label as the world’s most oppressive in the summer of 2012, just three years after the economically-backward communist dictatorship opened its first pizza parlor, which is likely an unobtainable dining luxury for most North Koreans.

But Montz’s documentary isn’t about North Korean pizza. It attempts to counter the notion that the Kim family has maintained power merely through brutal repression. Their propaganda, which looks comically ridiculous to Western eyes, is crucial to understanding why the regime is still around, argues Montz.

The footage of horrific poverty in the film helps demonstrate that it is “all the more amazing that North Korea is still around given that it’s been desperately poor for so long,” he said.

“In an odd way, pointing out how desperately weak the economy is shows how incredibly powerful the other pillars of the socio-cultural system are, including the ideological apparatus.”

WATCH: “Juche Strong” trailer 

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Read TheDC’s lively interview with Montz about North Korea, his film and where you can see it below:

So, what made you want to make a documentary about North Korea?

The honest but personally unflattering answer is that I was initially fascinated by North Korea because I’d bought into the most common media representations of the country — that it’s this antiquated Soviet satellite subsisting purely on oppression that’s dominated by a strange and stupid family. However, as I started to seriously research North Korea and its history, I bumped into the unfortunate fact that that representation happens to bear very little resemblance to reality. And when I came to terms with the fact that I’d been misled about North Korea, I realized most Western observers had as well. And so the film evolved into an attempt to combat the most common misperceptions of the country and to lay out the particular internal ideological logic that plays a vital role in keeping the country running.

There is some footage in the film that his horrifying. I’m thinking specifically of the footage of the North Korea kid in the field who looked like she hadn’t eaten for days. How did you get the footage for the documentary? Did you travel to North Korea yourself?  

I travelled and shot in North Korea in the summer of 2012. The vast majority of video in the film of the country itself was shot then. That particular segment, though, wasn’t from me — it’s secret footage taken by a freelance journalists that was first published by the UK’s Telegraph. And that footage is in this film on purpose — it’s a brutal and vivid representation of just how economically depressed and mismanaged this country is. Turns out top-down, command and control socialist economics is slightly suboptimal. But part of the reason I make that point is to emphasize the fact that it’s all the more amazing that North Korea is still around given that it’s been desperately poor for so long. In an odd way, pointing out how desperately weak the economy is shows how incredibly powerful the other pillars of the socio-cultural system are, including the ideological apparatus.