Time-Life Photographer: Kim Jong Il's Cult Like Bush's 'Very Controlled' White House

A newly posted Time-Life magazine photo montage showcased pictures of North Korea and touted photographer Christopher Morris comparing brutal dictator Kim Jong Il to the "very controlled environment" of George W. Bush's White House.

On Life magazine's website, Morris connected, "America at that time [2005] was, you'll recall, filled with a kind of blind nationalism. But Time appreciated the way I was able to work and get good photos even within that intensely restrictive environment -- and that's why they sent me to North Korea." The photographer bizarrely insisted that taking pictures in America could be "more restrictive than in North Korea."

"Try picking up your camera and just start shooting at JFK airport, or in a subway in the States," he complained.

Morris did concede, "Of course...in North Korea you don't have freedom of movement, you can't come and go as you please."

In the December 2010 publication, re-posted on Life's website in the wake of the dictator's death, Morris credulously touted the North Koreans, many of whom are starving, for not having to deal with western capitalism:

"It's so revealing to talk with North Koreans," Morris notes, "because they really do look at American society and, say, South Korean society as a capitalist wasteland of decadence and immorality and the exploitation of people through corporate greed.

A second photographer, the British Gary Knight, did allow that the North Korean regime is "beyond evil."

However, he offered similar sentiments: "The regime should change, should become more open -- but a lot will be lost. You have millions and millions of people who have never been exposed to the ravages of the unfettered free market, of corporate greed. Certainly their neighbors, the Chinese and the South Koreans, are intensely competitive, and are simply going to swallow them up."

The response of these journalists sounds very similar to what some reporters said when communism collapsed in 1989:

“Few tears will be shed over the demise of the East German army, but what about East Germany’s eighty symphony orchestras, bound to lose some subsidies, or the whole East German system, which covered everyone in a security blanket from day care to health care, from housing to education? Some people are beginning to express, if ever so slightly, nostalgia for that Berlin Wall.”
— CBS reporter Bob Simon on the March 16, 1990 CBS Evening News.

For more on that, see the MRC's Better Off Red.

Text of the above comments can be found below. The entire photographic montage can be found here.

[Hat tip to the MRC's James Nolan.]


Christopher Morris, who has covered conflicts all over the world and recorded George W. Bush's presidency for Time, was working in New Orleans in 2005, just after Katrina hit, when his editors called: "They'd gotten me a rare visa to North Korea, and at the height of the storm I left New Orleans for this other assignment. And honestly, I think Time chose me because I had been covering the White House -- a very controlled environment -- where you're told where you can go, what you can photograph, what you can't photograph.... America at that time was, you'll recall, filled with a kind of blind nationalism. But Time appreciated the way I was able to work and get good photos even within that intensely restrictive environment -- and that's why they sent me to North Korea. I was good at handling restrictions." Above: North Korean soldiers during the famed Anirang Mass Games in Pyongyang.

...


"In some ways," Morris claims, "I've found photographing in America these days a lot more restrictive than it was in North Korea. Try picking up your camera and just start shooting at JFK airport, or in a subway in the States. People -- and not just the authorities, but regular people -- do not like it. Above: Commuters ride the subway in Pyongyang.

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"It's so revealing to talk with North Koreans," Morris notes, "because they really do look at American society and, say, South Korean society as a capitalist wasteland of decadence and immorality and the exploitation of people through corporate greed. And I remember the female minder I had: I let her listen to my iPod playing some popular Western music, which of course is something she's never exposed to. And to her, it was just pollution. I don't want to say it seemed pornographic to her, but it definitely did not sit well with her. She simply had no desire to hear it.

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"I fell in love with the North Korean people, really," [British photographer and co-founder of VII Photo Agency Gary] Knight says. "They were so kind. So thoughtful. And while I would never defend the regime in North Korea -- it's obviously beyond evil -- and while almost any alternative is probably better than what's there now, it's also clear that regime change could cause real harm to the very people it's supposed to help. There will be enormous trauma, like someone waking from a 50-year coma. The regime should change, should become more open -- but a lot will be lost. You have millions and millions of people who have never been exposed to the ravages of the unfettered free market, of corporate greed. Certainly their neighbors, the Chinese and the South Koreans, are intensely competitive, and are simply going to swallow them up. Whatever comes next, I fear it will seriously damage the mental well-being of the North Korean people."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org