This weekend I watched an excellent BBC documentary presented by Sue Lloyd-Roberts on North Korea.
It is extraordinary that more than twenty million people are still in thrall to the hereditary Communist dictatorship that governs their country.
The Beloved Leader, revered as a God and dead for 16 years rules from beyond the grave whilst his son, the Dear One carries out his earthly will.
There is little or no contact with the outside world and a North Korean youth asked to compare the Beloved one ( or was it the Dear One?) with rivals for the throne of greatest living leader could only mention Stalin and Mao as in the same league.
Famine haunts much of the country outside of Pyongyang and probably disease as well.
There are some markets for food and goods but although Sue Lloyd Roberts was ultimately allowed to visit one no cameras were permitted. Seemingly the hosts were embarrassed by their success and these markets she was assured were to be phased out. I was reminded of a good friend of mine, Edwin Liechtenstein, whose daughter Olivia was producing a TV programme on an aspect of Soviet life in the late 80s and had secured the visit to London of a Soviet policewoman. The Soviet woman could scarcely comprehend the freedoms in Britain and could not grasp at all that members of the public, as opposed to party officials, could buy goods in shops full of goods.
The mystery of North Korea is how the terror and the brainwashing has kept the state going for so long. Then again I recall a friend of my grandparents who was convinced that the Berlin Wall had been built to keep out West Berliners determined to seek a better life in the West. The reality, of course, was somewhat different.