On This Week’s Stereo Sunday, We Continue Our Adventures in North Korea (Part One Can Be Found Here):
- Gabe and Jordan traveled to North Korea (aka Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — or DPRK) together several times between 2011 and 2016.
- As bizarre as you’ve heard North Korea can be, the reality is probably even weirder.
- What do you actually do on a trip to North Korea?
- How long does a typical itinerary last?
- Should you strike up conversations with random people in transit (or let them tell you what you can and cannot read)?
- What’s so impressive about the Arirang Mass Games?
- What should you do if you’re accidentally caught up in propaganda production?
- How do North Korean subways differ from what we’ve come to expect in the West?
- How can throwing a frisbee thaw international iciness?
- How much warm beer can you get for $20 cash money American?
- Want to know what it’s like to live out a scene from a David Lynch-directed musical? Just dine at a North Korean restaurant!
- Will you get thrown into a gulag for performing the Star-Spangled Banner at karaoke in North Korea (or should you)?
- Why did Kim Jong-il allegedly accompany his mother into battle as an infant?
- In the US, we have freedom of speech. In the DPRK, you don’t even have freedom from speech.
- Why do so many Americans and Canadians own businesses in a town on the Chinese-North Korean border?
- After talking about all the upsides of visiting North Korea as an American, what are the downsides?
- If you visit North Korea, what will you encounter that you won’t hear about on American network news?
- We also answer some of our listener questions that came in live during the show!
- Download the Stereo app here and participate with us live on Friday, November 20th and 27th, at 2 p.m. PST!
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHarbinger and Instagram at @jordanharbinger.
- Connect with Gabriel on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi.
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Miss the conversation we had with Hollywood leading man and musician Dennis Quaid? Catch up with episode 279: Dennis Quaid | Sharks, a Bear, and a Banjo here!
Resources from This Episode:
- iOS & Android | Stereo App
- Going to North Korea: Part One | Stereo Sunday | TJHS 435
- Charles Ryu | Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part One | The Jordan Harbinger Show
- Charles Ryu | Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part Two | The Jordan Harbinger Show
- Liberty in North Korea
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Official Page)
- North Korea | Central Intelligence Agency
- Koryo Tours
- Body Language: The Russian Science Keeping North Korea’s Dead Leaders Looking Fresh | Reuters
- Arirang Mass Games | Wikipedia
- North Korea Hosts ‘Mass Games’ for 75th Anniversary of Ruling Party | Reuters
- Mass Games 2019, 1st Night Performance | Koryo Tours
- Mass Games 2011 Highlights with English Subtitles (1 of 2) | Richard Betts
- Mass Games 2011 Highlights with English Subtitles (2 of 2) | Richard Betts
- Mass Games | Abuse Wiki
- Report: No Young Children Performing at North Korea’s Mass Games | UPI
- Day of the Sun | Wikipedia
- Ask a North Korean: What Happens on Your Wedding Day? | The Guardian
- North Korea Wedding Photographer | Tu Nguyen
- 90 Day Fiancé | TLC
- Mansu Hill Grand Monument, Pyongyang, North Korea | Atlas Obscura
- The Hypnotizing Beauty of Russia’s Historic Metro Stations | Bored Panda
- Inside the North Korea Subway | The Life of Jord
- What is Chollima? The Significance of the Legendary Horse in North Korea | Visit North Korea
- The US Army Once Ruled Pyongyang and 5 Other Things You Might Not Know about the Korean War | CNN
- How Ultimate Came to North Korea | Ultiworld
- A Glimpse Inside North Korea’s Secretive Brewing Scene | October
- From Dubai to Moscow, North Korean State Restaurants Offer Surreal Tastes of the Hermit Kingdom | The World, PRX
- Waitresses Singing in a Restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea | Eric Lafforgue
- First Contact | Mars Attacks
- Wŏnsan, North Korea | Britannica
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High | Prime Video
- Dumb and Dumber | Prime Video
- Titanic | Prime Video
- US National Anthem in DPRK | Jordan’s Prehistoric YouTube Account
- Pyongyang Railway Museum | The Rambling Wombat
- The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss
- 1984 by George Orwell
- North Korea Top 40 | Spotify
- Living in Dandong, China’s Most “Dangerous” City | YPT
- Three North Korean Restaurants Go Out of Business in Dandong, China | RFA
- State-Sponsored Slavery: A North Korean Export | Human Trafficking Search
- The Many Ways Letters Were Carried in 18th- and Early 19th-Century America | APS
- The Truman Show | Prime Video
- Non-Player Character (NPC) | Wikipedia
- Ten North Korean Foods You Can’t Miss | Young Pioneer Tours
- N. Korean Patrol Boat Fires on Chinese Fishing Boats, Killing Three | Daily NK
Transcript for Going to North Korea: Part Two | Stereo Sunday (Episode 439)
Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. And if you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists. Here on The Jordan Harbinger Show, each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:29] Today, we're doing part two of our episode on North Korea. We're talking about the four years that Gabriel and I spent traveling to, writing about, talking about North Korea, what the country is actually like, and what we took away from our experiences there. We did part one that was full of stories. This is our third episode of Stereo Sundays, which is a little experiment. We're sponsored by the Stereo app. You can grab that in the iOS App Store or the Android App Store. We will be live again this Friday, November 27th. So download the Stereo app if you're listening to this in the feed, follow along with us live next time. You may be listening to this after the 27th, in which case, hopefully, Stereo picks us up for another couple of episodes or seasons, if you will. And we're live for the next couple of months, that'd be great because I really am enjoying these. And you can listen to us again live on the Stereo app by grabbing it from the App Store.
[00:01:19] If you're wondering how we managed to book our guests, the authors, the thinkers, the celebrities that you hear on The Jordan Harbinger Show, the podcast. It's because of my network and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free. Over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:01:40] And the last part of this intro — I swear — before we get into story time here at the end, we're going to be doing 15 to 20 minutes or so of Q and A. You can submit those questions in the Stereo app for us at any time. There's a button on the chat there with a little speech-bubble and a microphone. You can shoot us a brief question about anything you want. It doesn't have to be related to North Korea or travel. You can ask us anything in there as long as it's — well, you know what? I'll leave it open. Last time we got some people asking us if we loved Harry Potter and then Jesus, but you know, like other than that, pretty much we're fair game here.
[00:02:12] Gabriel Mizrahi: Two questions, you do not want to ask somebody in North Korea, incidentally,
[00:02:16] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Because one, they're probably not allowed to read Harry Potter and to Jesus is a taboo subject in North Korea.
[00:02:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:02:22] Jordan Harbinger: Off-limits.
[00:02:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: Not a place you want to go, yeah.
[00:02:24] Jordan Harbinger: No, if you're into handing out Bibles, that's no good. So here we go Stereo Sunday segment on traveling to North Korea, part two with Gabriel Mizrahi.
[00:02:32] Now in 2011, Gabe and I went to North Korea for the first time. We ended up going several more times from 2011 to 2016. That was before the US banned travel to the DPRK. So we ended up getting a pretty unique glimpse into the place, seeing, and having conversations most Westerners just never get accessed to. And last week we began talking about our time there. Realized just how much there was to get into. So we decided to do a part two of this episode for Stereo Sunday and pick up where we left off. Today, we'll be talking more about the five years we spent traveling through the least visited country on earth. What we took away from those experiences and whether people should still travel to North Korea?
[00:03:14] A lot of people were asking us last time and we stopped at this point. What do you actually do there? What do you do on a trip to North Korea? Because as we'd mentioned before, you're always with your minders, your tour guides that are essentially designed, not just to make you have a good time and show you things, but to make sure that you don't wander off or see something you're not supposed to. Different trips and itineraries and experiences, they depend on the length of the trip, the interests that you tell them ahead of time, the time of year because some things get cut off by snow, for example, and there's no heat and electricity in many parts of the country, they also include all the standard stops.
[00:03:49] So there's a mausoleum where Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il — the two original leaders of North Korea — are buried in state. In other words, they're open caskets preserved in — what is it like argon gas cubes, basically?
[00:04:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. They're like glass cages. It's like Mars Attacks or something.
[00:04:06] Jordan Harbinger: They look like wax figurines, but they're in like a gas — it's beyond bizarre. There are museums that you have to see. Like, you don't have a choice. There are cultural sites that are possibly somewhat fake or totally fake that you hit that you definitely have to see. Most trips are for seven days. Some are 10? A few can be longer, although God, what would you do for longer? I don't know. You can join a standard group tour, or you can create one of your own for a smaller group. And there are specialized tourists for specific areas and interests, and you can get pretty niche. There are train tours, there's a business and economic tour where they probably show you things like the ostrich farm only like times a hundred. "Here's the water bottling plant." I remember seeing one of those. There's also an aviation tour. Gabriel, I was thinking about this the other day. They were like, "Come back and do the aviation tour." And you get to fly a small plane around the country.
[00:04:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, I didn't go on the aviation tour, but I took one of those planes. They're like small propeller planes up to the North of the country. That was—
[00:05:05] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my God.
[00:05:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: I'm not going to lie. I was a little bit worried about it—
[00:05:08] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:05:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: —because I mean, just taking the jet from Beijing to Pyongyang is a little bit — I wouldn't say you don't feel like you're in danger, but you're like, "Are they checking the engines as regularly?" Do they have the same regulations? I like to think that China is like, "Yo, you better be checking your planes before you take people from our country into your country." So I guess that gives you a little confidence, but once you're inside North Korea, is there any guarantee that they have regulations that demand that they check, like the planes at a regular interval, that they can get the right parts that they're not using knock-off parts? I don't know. It was a little bit sketchy, but also one of the coolest experiences I've ever had, mostly because I lived through it. That was probably the best part but it's an experience to fly over North Korea for one of these tiny little planes. And you feel like you're stepping back into like the early, the late '70s or something early '80s, and you're flying over this country in 90 minutes to hang out with people like 20,000 feet above. It's an experience so I can see why they would want to package that into a tour.
[00:06:01] Jordan Harbinger: You were not with any locals though, other than your guide, right?
[00:06:04] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well, it's funny you ask because this was when I was being hired to lead tours to North Korea for a few years. So I had my people on the plane and then at the very last minute, they put a bunch of people on the plane and they sat in the back behind a curtain and they didn't tell us who they were. They didn't tell us why they were going to the North. They were just like, "Yo, these people need a ride, so we're taking them." So I'm guessing that they were government officials, perhaps just people who needed to ride, and "Oh yeah. The Americans are in town and they chartered a plane. So why don't we just piggyback on their ride and get up there?"
[00:06:34] Jordan Harbinger: That is — you know, oh my gosh, that's one of those spooky little anecdotes about North Korea, right? Where there's people on the plane. And I remember one time I was flying back to China from there — we're getting into stories already, but that's okay, right?
[00:06:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:06:47] Jordan Harbinger: We're flying back to China. And I remember talking to some guy who was — he had a Russian passport, but he was Korean, which I thought was really interesting. And I said, "Oh, what do you do?" And he's like, "Business."
[00:07:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wait question. Sorry. Was this guy Korean? Or was he Russian?
[00:07:02] Jordan Harbinger: He was Korean, but he had a Russian passport.
[00:07:04] Gabriel Mizrahi: But he has a Russian passport. okay.
[00:07:06] Jordan Harbinger: So he looked Korean, I should say, but he was Russian, but he spoke Korean and Russian because I heard him speaking both. And he spoke Russian with an accent because I could hear it.
[00:07:13] Gabriel Mizrahi: Got it.
[00:07:13] Jordan Harbinger: And I remember saying like, "What do you do business?" And then I was like, "Okay." And he spoke English pretty well. So I was like, "Okay, well, obviously you do know more." And yet he had a DPRK passport too. So I thought that was kind of interesting. And there was another guy there that was Russian, who, I don't know if he was with him, but I think that he was, and I said, "Okay, what are you doing?" He's like, "Um, import-export." And I was like, "What?" And he basically was like, "You know, various implements." And I was like, "Okay." And I kind of got—
[00:07:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: He said implements?
[00:07:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, he said like implements it wasn't — I don't know if he used that exact word, but basically, I go, what exactly is it? You know, like, and he says like avionics and things like that. And I was like, "Okay,"
[00:07:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, it's not number two pencils.
[00:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: No, it was so obvious that he sold missile parts in it and playing stuff for the military because that's the only real business. Like they don't import children's toys and they're like, "Oh good. We have a thriving children's toy industry."
[00:08:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:08:06] Jordan Harbinger: They pretty much only do military stuff there. A lot of the time, like for the international stuff, they only really invest in that.
[00:08:12] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. Stuff that you need when you're trying to fend off the outside world.
[00:08:15] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. So it was a little bit strange to sort of see that. And like he had like diagrams with them and stuff that, you know, they were like little missile fins and staff. And I was like, all right.,
[00:08:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's the cheesy ass '80s spies’ shit, just boarding a plane with conspicuous diagrams of the weird things you're bringing into the country.
[00:08:34] Jordan Harbinger: Always.
[00:08:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: So where do you go from there? You're sitting next to this guy. He tells you that he's avionics or whatever, and then you're like—
[00:08:39] Jordan Harbinger: He just wasn't really interested in talking. And he was behind me, so it was kind of like extra work to turn around and bother him. So I was like — I'm fine with it. There's always so many strange things that happen there. And I ended up having to move once on the plane and I got sat in the back next to all of the North Koreans. I was the only person there in that section. And they were kind of like visibly, not annoyed, but nervous that I was there in a way. And then, the guy who was sitting next to me switched out with another guy who was younger and tougher looking. And that guy sat next to me and he was like — he basically wouldn't let me do certain things on the plane. Like I was trying to read the magazine with Kim Jong-un's picture on it. And he was like, "No."
[00:09:18] Gabriel Mizrahi: What do you mean no? Like, he's like, this is not for you or what?
[00:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: He was like, "No." Yeah. And he basically tried to take it away and I was like a souvenir. And he was just like, "No." He wouldn't let me take it off the plane. He actually took it away from me. And I was like, "I'm not going to fight with like a secret policeman or something like that on a plane. That's not a good idea."
[00:09:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's probably not a great conversation to get into.
[00:09:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And like, what if they keep me on the plane? Is he trying to go be like, "Let that guy go"? Or are they going to take me back to North Korea for assaulting police? You know, you just never know with them. And it's like, how bad do I want this magazine?
[00:09:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: Totally. And, you know, you make a good point. A lot of the funny stuff that happens in North Korea, you just don't expect. It's just these serendipitous little things. Like getting on an airplane is always an adventure. There's always an interesting mix of people. The other interesting people you meet on the airplane is — okay, so do you remember that first year we went on the plane home? We ended up sitting in a group. Like near the back of the plane, there was a group of Korean young kids. I want to say probably early 20s, 18 to 25 or so. They were very clearly Korean, but they looked different from all the other Korean people who were on the plane. And they were looking at us and you could sort of tell that they wanted to chat with us, but they were a little hesitant. They didn't know what to make of it. And so, we ended up just talking like, "Hey man, what's up?" Like you come back — and they spoke like perfect, beautiful English. And it turns out that they were ethnic Korean kids but who lived in Japan.
[00:10:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. Right. And that's when I found out that there are North Koreans that went to Japan and never came home.
[00:10:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. And they have North Korean passports because their parents were from North Korea and probably during the war just happened to end up South of the DMZ and then probably made their way to Japan. Or perhaps left Korea when it was unified and it was under Japanese occupation and went to Japan and just got stuck there before the war broke out. And so they are allowed to have passports and they're allowed to come back because they have family and they have a tie to the country, but they are Japanese culturally. And remember, they had like different clothes and they were wearing like pink ties and they had cool, cool, like Ray-Ban frames. It was so interesting. They were like, "Why are you here?"
[00:11:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, because you could tell, they were like, "We don't even love coming here. It's so freaking weird. But we come to visit or like great grandparents or something like that."
[00:11:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: Exactly. I just love talking to those people. You realize how interesting — I mean, the Korean diaspora is a topic in and of itself, but you get little glimpses of it in those moments.
[00:11:31] Jordan Harbinger: One of the coolest things that we did — we got to dive into the Mass Games. It's got to be one of the largest events, just period. That's in one place. It's 140,000 people fit in this stadium; I think. Is that accurate, Gabe?
[00:11:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: That sounds about right.
[00:11:44] Jordan Harbinger: It's the largest stadium in the world, or at least at the time it was 140,000, 150,000. And there's something like 18,000 performers simultaneously during the Mass Games.
[00:11:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: Let me just do a quick fact-check there. A hundred thousand participants.
[00:12:01] Jordan Harbinger: Stop really. I thought it was like 18,000. I didn't know it was a hundred thousand.
[00:12:04] Gabriel Mizrahi: Unless they include the audience in that, which maybe they do. But even if they do that is — can you wrap your head around how many people? We have to paint a picture. Can you explain what the Mass Games are, Jordan?
[00:12:13] Jordan Harbinger: So you've probably seen videos of this. We got a link to it in the show notes. In fact, Bob Fogarty, we'll link to a couple of Mass Games videos in the show notes for you guys. They're like gymnastics performances and they're all synchronized. So it's like something you would see during the Olympic Games opening ceremony, but it's so much bigger in scale than that. And on the opposite side of the stadium where you're sitting, there are people holding placards, and each of the placards is like color or something like that. And they can make animation across from you where you can see it by flipping the placards around really quickly. So they'll do different pictures. They'll make like a rocket launch animation by flipping the placards over. It's like non-digital animation because there's 13,000 people standing back there and they're all expertly trained to flip a certain placard over at a very specific time. It's absolutely ludicrous. It's like human LEDs. That's what I'm kind of going for human LEDs.
[00:13:10] Gabriel Mizrahi: And they're doing this while there's gymnastics going on, dance going on acrobatics, just the most insane level of almost socialist-realist Cirque du Soleil is the best way I can describe it happening for an hour and a half as they play this dramatic Korean opera to the images that are being created by the flipping, perfectly synchronized, perfectly, perfectly synchronized flipping up these cards on the opposite side of the stadium, from where you're sitting. It is exhausting and fascinating to watch. Like you leave there feeling like you just saw three Avengers movies back to back with much less entertainment value, but just the sheer level of performance and the precision of it is insane. And it tells you a lot about where this country sends its resources, what it puts its energy into, you know.
[00:13:58] Jordan Harbinger: Kids perform, adults perform. So it's not just like a bunch of trained professional performers. It's like huge groups of people who are performing. And then some of the kids are really young. They're like 10 years old, maybe. It's absolutely a sight to behold. And it's one of those things that they keep saying, they're going to stop doing it. But when you go there, you literally, you just have to see it. It's one of the most incredible sites. Again, we'll throw the video into the show notes, but watching it on YouTube on your laptop screen is not quite the same thing as viewing it in person where it's loud and it's going on around you. And you feel like — you're at kind of like the socialist Superbowl, right? Like you said Cirque du Soleil writ large. That's one of the most interesting things.
[00:14:35] They also have massive parades and I know what you're thinking, "Oh yeah. I've seen those parades where they have like ICBM, missile trucks and people, marching and tanks with people standing out of them saluting — those happen there, not all the time. But they do happen there. And if you're lucky enough to go see one, it is absolutely bananas. Have you been to a military parade at all, Gabe?
[00:14:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: I don't think so.
[00:14:56] Jordan Harbinger: Or even a parade? No? We got caught in parade traffic and we were stuck and they finally just said, screw it, and kind of let us out as long as we didn't run wild and we saw soldiers that were like drinking and partying and trying to give us drinks. It was really, really fun because we saw the outside of this military parade. And then I know some other tourists have gotten really, really lucky and been able to sort of pop out of a subway station in the middle of a parade. And they just were like, well, we're just going to stay here. You know, there's almost no foreigners at these parades.
[00:15:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:15:26] Jordan Harbinger: So if you pop out of a subway station and they see you, they're like, "Oh, we want you up front because we're going to film you, watching this parade. Just clap the whole time.
[00:15:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, perfect.
[00:15:34] Jordan Harbinger: They use you as a propaganda—
[00:15:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:15:36] Jordan Harbinger: —piece, you know, and you're standing there and like next to you is like a Ukrainian gymnastics team. That's like, "Why are we here? It's cold. And we're in leotards."
[00:15:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: Don't you hate when you get caught up in some accidental propaganda, a little accidental prop.
[00:15:49] Jordan Harbinger: I was on — were you on TV in North Korea? I was on TV once doing a dance—
[00:15:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: No.
[00:15:52] Jordan Harbinger: — a very awkward dance.
[00:15:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: What?
[00:15:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:15:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: I don't think I've heard this story. What?
[00:15:56] Jordan Harbinger: What we showed up to like outdoor dancing. And they were like, "Yeah, there's going to be this traditional dancing.
[00:16:04] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh yeah, the outdoor dancing. I forgot about that.
[00:16:06] Jordan Harbinger: For whatever reason, that was just happening. And they paired us up with some women who did not want to dance with us at all. They were very unhappy that they had to dance with us and then they kind of switched off and then other girls were shy. They decided to come and film us for KCNA, which is like their CNN, their state-owned CNN. And there's a clip. I actually got the clip from another person who lived in Russia or China. And they were like, "Did I just see you on a clip of North Korea news?" And I was like, "Yes, you did." So I'm there doing the equivalent of North Korean square dancing with a woman who's just like, please don't take a picture of me with this yahtz. And I'm standing with a couple of other tourists and we're doing the dancing and they do use you as propaganda. And they'll kind of take photos with you and everybody wants to either take photos with you or run away from you. That's kind of the two reactions you get in North Korea. Either like, "Take photos with my babies."
[00:16:59] Were you with me when we walked through a park and there were like 17 weddings and everyone wanted us in their wedding photos with the bride and the groom. And we were dressed in shorts and flip flops.
[00:17:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: No, that was not the trip we did together. That was another one.
[00:17:10] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:17:10] Gabriel Mizrahi: Why are you getting all the cool stuff, man? Like how did that happen? Maybe you have a propaganda phase.
[00:17:15] Jordan Harbinger: I do. I've got propaganda.
[00:17:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Maybe they looked at me and they're like, "No, this guy, this is too dark."
[00:17:20] Jordan Harbinger: We want somebody who looks like a stereotypical American. So they grabbed me and Sailor Joe, and whoever else was in this park with us. You know, in the summer, there's a lot of weddings that are all in this one park. The little photo sessions, they're all — maybe they only allow it to happen on certain days, because I think they have lucky days kind of like China does, and they take photos with the statues and they get all done up and we'd be walking around and the photographer and the bride and the groom would be like, "Yes, stand here between us." And I'm like, "You're married and you want me to stand next to your wife and you," and they're like, "Yeah, pretty much." And I can't remember who it was, but I want to say Sailor Joe picked up one of the brides. Like physically picked her up and they were laughing and hollering and she was so like loving it.
[00:18:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:18:03] Jordan Harbinger: And they'd had us take photos with the older people who were in the wedding as well, like grandma and grandpa, and they were loving it. They were just loving every second of it. It was so bizarre.
[00:18:13] Gabriel Mizrahi: In somebody's photo album in Pyongyang. There's just a guy from Michigan standing in between the bride and groom.
[00:18:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: And that's like part of their story.
[00:18:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And we exchanged no words. And I asked my tour guides what that was like, and they're like, they've probably never seen a foreigner up close.
[00:18:28] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:18:28] Jordan Harbinger: They think, "Hey, we're at this park on this lucky day taking our wedding photos. So look how lucky we are. We saw a white person for the first time in our entire lives in real life. Up close and personal." So of course, you want to get a photo. It'd be like if an alien dropped down in the middle of the park, you know, and you're like, "Hey, we're very having wedding photos. You want to be in this?" And you're just kind of like, "Cool. I have no idea what you're saying, but the photographer keeps motioning me to get in and you keep running around me. So yeah, let's do photos."
[00:18:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: I mean, the idea of taking photos with aliens is objectively hilarious.
[00:18:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: It does make me also think. Just what those marriages must be like, like after that. You know, like getting married in North Korea, what? You don't go on a honeymoon. Right? I mean, maybe you go
[00:19:08] Jordan Harbinger: to some—
[00:19:08] You probably go to some lake.
[00:19:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: You go to a lake about 90 minutes away, probably like in Pyongyang or something, and then come home. And you're like, "That was great. Now let's live out the rest of our lives."
[00:19:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You got a warm sun and like pick abalone off the beach or something.
[00:19:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, that would be a great episode of 90 Day Fiance though. Wouldn't it?
[00:19:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, North Korean bride. Yeah. "We couldn't film anything in the country. So here's a bunch of sketches."
[00:19:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: The memes alone would be fantastic. You know, you mentioned the subway a moment ago. I think we should talk about that. Do you remember the subway?
[00:19:36] Jordan Harbinger: I do at first though, I want to remind people, we are going to be doing Q and A at the end of this. Hit the Q-and-A button in the Stereo app and you can ask us a question. We'll be doing Q and A at the end. And if you're listening to this in the podcast feed, we do this live on Fridays in November in the Stereo app. So go grab that from iOS or Android and listen to us live and interact with us live.
[00:19:56] So, yes, we get to skip over some of the other stuff, right? The May Day, the Worker's Day, those monuments that are everywhere, these giant statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung that are just huge. I mean, these are not normal statue sizes. They are absolutely enormous. You mentioned talking about the subway. Yeah, these are Soviet constructed or at least Soviet modeled subways. And if you've ever been to Russia that the subway was like this big point of national pride and there's murals on the wall. And everything is sort of very grandiose.
[00:20:27] The subways in Pyongyang, they're like 800-feet underground because they're supposed to be a bomb shelter or a nuclear fallout shelter. So first of all, the downstairs and the down escalators are ridiculous. They're so deep. And then you get down there and the murals are all these little immaculate, little tile murals of like Kim Jong-il or Kim Il-sung riding a magical flying horse. And, you know, battle scenes and things like that. And they have newspapers that are in the middle and, you know, state-run newspapers. So it's Kim Jong-un's face in a tank or something like that next to it on the page everywhere. And all of the cars were from former East Germany and they all say something like, "Manufactured in East Germany," in the subway cars, because they can't really trade with anyone.
[00:21:11] So they basically took all of their cars from East Germany back in the eighties and they just kept them in pretty decent working condition from the look of it. I don't know. What was your impression? It's such a weird setup down there too.
[00:21:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: No, I mean, it's a very nice subway line. I mean, I guess it makes sense that they're proud of it, but like, yeah, I mean, first of all, it was bizarre when you take that escalator, you get on the escalator like 11:00 a.m. It feels like by the time you get down there, it's like 3:30 p.m.
[00:21:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:21:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: And then they take you down two or three stops. They take her on like the Chollima Line. Do you remember that? I think that's named after the Pegasus-like creature from—
[00:21:43] Jordan Harbinger: The flying horse.
[00:21:45] Gabriel Mizrahi: —Greek mythology. The flying horse. Yeah. So it will take you to like the Chollima Station or the Chollima Line, or they'll take you to like the three stations that are fantastic and beautiful, but they'll skip all over the ones that are just like a concrete bomb shelter. It's a nice subway. I don't know what else there is to say about it. It's just interesting. And yet another space where you interact with locals and they either are a little bit fascinated and shy, or they just don't want anything to do with you.
[00:22:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I remember an old lady on the train, looked at me and smiled and of course, you know, smiled back. And I remember looking at grown men and they would avoid looking at me entirely. And then there would be kids that would be looking at us because they were so curious. And I remember sitting down next to a couple of kids and they both slid away from me as far as they could go before falling off the seat.
[00:22:28] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yes.
[00:22:28] Jordan Harbinger: You know, like they slid all the way — there was room for two people to sit between me and these kids, and then they looked down and didn't look at me for the rest of the trip, which made me feel bad. Because I was like, "Do they think I want them to move? This is their country. I'm just trying to hang out."
[00:22:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Here's my hypothesis about that. So I also found a similar reaction with people on the ground. You find that older people, especially older men, are often a little hostile toward you. Like they just do not want to come anywhere near you. And the reason for that, I think, is that they remember the Korean War or they're old enough to remember stories about the Korean War. And so when they see Americans, I think for them—
[00:23:01] Jordan Harbinger: Triggered.
[00:23:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: —it's all wrapped up in the conflict. Yeah. They're just like, "These people are not our friends. I do not want anything to do with them." The women are friendlier, generally speaking, although even in North Korea, there are people who are nice and there are people who are not nice, just like any other place, which I found to be a relief, because if everybody was super friendly for no good reason—
[00:23:17] Jordan Harbinger: Creepy.
[00:23:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: —I would find that to be a little bit creepy. Yeah. So I actually appreciate that. There's just like any other place. And children, most of them are quite shy, but for the most part, they're very friendly. And once you get them to open up, they're super cool. And that's because if you're under — I can't do the math in my head right now — but if you're a young to a middle-aged person in North Korea, you really do not have an emotional connection to the Korean War. Like there's none of that baggage going on with you. So I found that very interesting when we were playing. What is it called? The ultimate Frisbee in Pyongyang. Do you remember that, Jordan?
[00:23:46] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, we had an ultimate Frisbee tournament sponsored by — was it Five Ultimate? It was sponsored by this major brand.
[00:23:51] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. Something like that. And it was the first ultimate Frisbee tournament ever in North Korea. We were part of it. It was pretty cool. But the coolest thing about that day is we ended up tossing around Frisbees on the sidelines of the game with locals who had just been walking by — they just happened to be passing by. And we would see, you know, for 15, 20, 30 minutes, these older men would walk by. They would give us the stink-eye and just keep walking. And then, at some point, somebody got the idea. I don't remember who. "What would happen if I just sort of nodded at one of them and threw them a Frisbee? "And you know how it is when somebody throws you a Frisbee—
[00:24:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: What do you do? You catch the Frisbee, right?
[00:24:23] Jordan Harbinger: You catch the Frisbee.
[00:24:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: And you threw the Frisbee back and it worked like clockwork. And so that happened. I think I threw it; you threw it. A few of us started throwing Frisbees to random people. And they would catch it, look at it, like it was an alien object, and then just be like, "Oh, okay. And I'll throw it back." And then we would just throw it right back. And then 10 minutes later, we started laughing with these people who didn't want anything to do with us.
[00:24:41] I thought that was so interesting because it's such a simple thing. It's a very childlike thing, but it just cut through all of the history and the BS and the ideas that we all had about one another in that like a very simple act of throwing around the Frisbee. I remember that that's one of my favorite memories, actually.
[00:24:56] Jordan Harbinger: So to rain on your parade of one of your favorite memories, there's always in North Korea, there's always these guys that are, I'm guessing state security officers—
[00:25:05] Gabriel Mizrahi: No.
[00:25:05] Jordan Harbinger: —that loves to ruin things.
[00:25:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: Don't tell me that.
[00:25:07] Jordan Harbinger: Do you remember the time—?
[00:25:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wait, are you saying every old man I throw a Frisbee with—
[00:25:11] Jordan Harbinger: No, no, no. I think those are genuine old men. I remember that same day playing Frisbee. I remember throwing the Frisbee to a kid who wasn't in our group, you know, in the Frisbee group, like not approved by the state to come to play Frisbee with us. Just a kid who was in the park with, I don't know, other kids, and this guy — I'm not even kidding — came out of the wooded area. Okay. And told the kid whatever in Korean, he threw the Frisbee back and ran away. He just left. And I was like, that was so weird.
[00:25:41] And I asked the guide because we were with one of the guides, crazy Kim, as we nicknamed all the guides because their last name is always Kim. So we have to come up with another nickname. I said, "What's the deal with that?" And he goes, "What?" And I go, "The guy that came out of the woods in a freaking members-only jacket and told the kid to drop the Frisbee and go away." And he goes, "There wasn't anything like that." And I'm like, "There was. The guy just came out and did that," and he goes, "Oh, he thinks you're dangerous." And I'm like, "Oh." And then I asked later around other guides and I said, "Kim said that that guy thought we were dangerous." And then basically what happened is they just denied that that ever happened. And that reminded me of the car accident that we talked about last week—
[00:26:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, yeah.
[00:26:18] —where they told us one thing, then they told us another thing. Then they denied anything we saw actually happened. They totally gaslighted at us the whole time.
[00:26:24] The most boring version of George Orwell I've ever heard in my life. "What?" "That, that thing? That guy in the forest?" "That didn't ever happen." Right?
[00:26:31] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah. "No, there's that? Why would there be a guy in the woods?" "Well, that's my question. Why is there a guy in the woods that we can't see? That's not letting other kids play Frisbee with us. What are you talking about?" Yeah, that's the weird part, dude.
[00:26:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, man.
[00:26:42] Jordan Harbinger: And that's kind of what made me think, like how often are these random state security guys just around.
[00:26:48] Gabriel Mizrahi: Just chilling.
[00:26:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like kind of hiding, but also kind of not because he was smoking. He wasn't like being a Navy SEAL with a Camel on his face.
[00:26:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, well, a lot of people who need a lot of jobs in that country, so I would not be surprised.
[00:26:58] Jordan Harbinger: I guess so. We did lighten the mood though. I don't know if you remember this. We were like, "Hey, can we go get some beer and bring it here?" And they were like, "Sure." And you know, normally in North Korea they're charging like three, five bucks for a beer because they want to make money off you. I gave 20 bucks to one of the drivers and he came back with $10 and a trunk full of beer. You couldn't fit anything else in there?
[00:27:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: I remember that specifically because you handed him $20 thinking he was going to go to like the Korean version of 7-eleven, and come back with like 40 ounces of beers and instead he came back with like a boot full of cheap state-sponsored—
[00:27:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, 50 beers.
[00:27:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: Literally like 50 beers, 55, 40-ounce beers in the back of the truck, popped it, like it was a music video and it was like, "Behold!"
[00:27:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:45] Gabriel Mizrahi: "Here's your change."
[00:27:45] Jordan Harbinger: He was pretty proud of himself. He was proud of himself, yeah, “And here's your change." And we literally have enough beer for everyone now. And I remember we sent him home with like 30 beers because nobody—
[00:27:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:27:56] Jordan Harbinger: For some reason, only a few of us wanted to drink a nice warm beer on a hot day after playing ultimate Frisbee.
[00:28:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's right. It wasn't even cold.
[00:28:05] Jordan Harbinger: No. The beer wasn't cold. They don't refrigerate shit. Like they weren't into that.
[00:28:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, man. That's so funny. I completely forgot about the warm beer after the game. That's so funny. Yeah. Anyway, you didn't ruin the memory completely. I thought you were going to say that the old men were playing with me because there were machine guns pointed at them or something.
[00:28:19] Jordan Harbinger: Paid by state security officers or were like secret Korean KGB, no, not so much.
[00:28:25] We've talked a lot about the different types of events here. I do want to mention though — we talked about the department store last week. Some of the restaurants are very weird because every restaurant that we went to, that wasn't inside the hotel and even some that were, they all include a performance. Do you remember this?
[00:28:39] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh yeah.
[00:28:40] Jordan Harbinger: Like there's a lot of singing from the waitresses. There's a lot of dancing from the waitresses and there's a lot of really bad food, like bad.
[00:28:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: Although there was one place. What was other? There's like a pizzeria where the chefs had been trained in Italy or—
[00:28:55] Jordan Harbinger: And they had Coca Cola there. Do you remember?
[00:28:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: That was the only place where they had Coke, right, yeah.
[00:28:59] Jordan Harbinger: In the entire country, apparently.
[00:29:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: In the entire country, apparently. Yeah. And at that restaurant, they're famous for the waitresses coming out and singing Frank Sinatra if I recall, right?
[00:29:07] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. But it's not as cool as it sounds like you think they're going to wreck New York, New York, and they just kind of come out in like mumble if I recall correctly.
[00:29:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: They sing with like an effect on the microphone, that's like kind of sounds also a little, a taxi, like—
[00:29:23] Jordan Harbinger: Reverby karaoke effect on every microphone.
[00:29:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: And I remember they come out and they sing like — what did they sing? Like My Way or something.
[00:29:30] Jordan Harbinger: I don't remember. Yeah. That sounds right. That sounds right. That restaurant was weird because it's — look, I know I'm describing the whole country as weird. Every place in it is highly unusual. That was a restaurant that actually had other North Koreans in it eating a lot of the time, even if it was only one or two guys. And usually, they looked kind of like hard-ass security officials.
[00:29:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, or diplomats or something.
[00:29:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, diplomats and like, they all wore the black outfit with the pin. So everybody in North Korea wears the pin over their heart of the leader's face and the flag or both. And these guys had bigger pins than most citizens, which I think might be kind of like a status symbol there. Although I don't really have any information to back that up. And they weren't super humorous, you know, you'd think like, "Oh, a rowdy group of foreigners came into this restaurant. Like that's kind of funny." They didn't care. In fact, they kind of looked annoyed that we existed a lot of the time. That's just been my experience. I've been there probably two or three times. You have probably been there a few separate times. Have you ever met anyone there? That's friendly in the restaurants?
[00:30:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: No. I've never chatted anybody up at the pizza restaurant in Pyongyang. It's not a place where you chat.
[00:30:30] Jordan Harbinger: None of those places are, I guess.
[00:30:32] Gabriel Mizrahi: No, but I will say you get a little more luck in the breweries because they're big on the breweries and, I don't know, there's a little—
[00:30:37] Jordan Harbinger: There's a lot of drinking going on.
[00:30:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. When they start drinking — I'm hesitating to get into this because — well, I guess we should talk a little bit about it. I want to say this without getting anybody in trouble. Not that this would really be a big deal, but there's a thing that happens three to four days into your trip in North Korea if you come there with the right attitude, if you're respectful and you're kind, and you're not trying to pick fights about the Korean War with everybody you meet. Your tour guides if they're cool, they really do open up to you. And after hours, once everything's kind of done for the day and you unwind with a beer in the hotel, or especially actually, I noticed when you get out of Pyongyang, when you get out of the Capitol and you go to far-flung places where they're not going to run into their boss in the hallway, or have to phone back to the office to let them know how everything went that day, when they can kind of unwind and they're a little bit off the radar — if you share a couple of drinks with them and you'd start talking, you will get information that you would never otherwise get. Did you have any of those conversations? Just like chatting late at night on an off night in — what was that abalone place you were talking about?
[00:31:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, Wonsan, yeah, because there's nothing else to do. And you're kind of having a couple of drinks. I feel like I have, but nothing comes to mind right now. Does something pop into your head about an interesting anecdote?
[00:31:44] Gabriel Mizrahi: You know, last episode, last week we talked about how a lot of the interesting stuff in North Korea gets communicated in subtext or looks. You know, they're not going to come out and say, "This place is bullshit and I hate living here." But they might shoot you a look or they might laugh when they're not supposed to and it will speak volumes. And I feel like it's a lot of that kind of thing, but I have had moments with them where — you know, they would never tell you for example, how many dates they've been on or if they have a crush on anybody or if they want to get married or what their life will be like after they get married. But if you are unwinding in the hotel and you're having a drink and you kind of bond with them, they might open up about that stuff and you really do get deep with them.
[00:32:17] And one night at Wonsan, I will say it was probably 11 o'clock at night and we were just chilling in the hotel. By hotel. I mean, a loosely constructed set of rooms around a very questionable courtyard. And I was with my two tour guides and they were like, "Hey, can we get out of here please?" I was like, "Yeah, we can get out of here. What are you talking about though? We're not allowed to just wander the street." And he's like, "Yeah, yeah, that's fine. Just come with me." The guy hilariously takes my hand, leads me out of the hotel, like a six-year-old on a field trip. And he and the other tour guide, and I just wandered the streets of Wonsan at 11:30 at night. It was fantastic. It was amazing. But that's the kind of stuff that only happens when you kind of have a little bit of distance from the Capitol and maybe a couple of drinks in you.
[00:33:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's a good point. We did go to the center of Wonsan and there was a guy who was taking photographs, Polaroid photographs basically.
[00:33:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: You mean a tourist or local?
[00:33:12] Jordan Harbinger: No. Like a local guy who had a camera and I thought that was kind of cool. And so there's a father who had wanted a photo of his kid and I had a Polaroid that printed out the photos somehow. I can't remember exactly how it worked.
[00:33:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: That was one of the best things he brought actually.
[00:33:27] Jordan Harbinger: So clutch, so clutch. And we were printing out photos of these kids with the parents and things like that. And they let us kind of run around. And there were kids rollerblading around the city and they were chasing us and we were having a lot of fun. And then eventually somebody said, again, somebody in a freaking members-only jacket came and said something to the guide and we had to go back to the hotel. Because I think they think, "Hey, we're not really being as observed as much. Everyone's having fun. It's fine." But once the security officer decides that you are somehow causing a ruckus, they will basically say, "Hey, rally your people up and get out of here."
[00:33:59] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:34:00] Jordan Harbinger: And then you have to leave and you can see our guide's demeanor change in a snap. And they'll never tell you why, but you can always tell why. And usually, if you're recording something, you're filming something or you're having a little bit too much fun, they're just like, "Get out of here." And it happens in two seconds, like a New York minute.
[00:34:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: You get a sense of the pecking order.
[00:34:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: Depending on whom they're talking to.
[00:34:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You realize that your tour guides have absolutely no say in anything, right, at all. They're not special at all which kind of makes sense. I remember I loaded up like a Google, not an iPad, like a Nexus or whatever those things were called. Those little Google's answer to the iPad. We put all these American movies on it and we gave it to one of the guides and she probably wasn't supposed to have that, but it was really cool for her because it was full of music. I put like Fast Times At Ridgemont High and stuff on there, and she was hooked on it, watching stuff, listening to stuff the entire time.
[00:34:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: So interesting. Because, you know, that they're not allowed to be in possession of that, but if they get it as a gift and they didn't ask for it, they watch it in the privacy of their home. I mean, they clearly can get away with it. Right?
[00:35:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think so. I mean, you know, I guess if you show the wrong friend, it's a problem, but if you're just checking it out and then, "Hey, one of the tourists gave it to me and it has a movie on it." Like probably, I wouldn't say it has a movie, probably say it has music on it or a book.
[00:35:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:35:17] Jordan Harbinger: But you just have to be so careful there because you can get in trouble for having a South Korean movie. So I would imagine Fast Times At Ridgemont High can cause problems too.
[00:35:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, but they've all probably seen like Dumb and Dumber, like 37 times.
[00:35:28] Jordan Harbinger: Well, one of our guides said she saw Titanic over a hundred times because that's how they learned English.
[00:35:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God. That's right. Wait. They love Titanic in North Korea.
[00:35:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's one movie that they're actually allowed to see.
[00:35:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Probably because everybody dies and they go, "Look, this is what happens when Americans design things. Everyone dies and freezes to death in the water."
[00:35:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, no one talks about politics and everyone dies.
[00:35:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yes, no politics and lots of deaths. It's a North Korean classic.
[00:35:53] Gabriel Mizrahi: Can we talk about how common it is to hear My Heart Will Go On in North Korea? Do you remember that?
[00:35:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's like one of the songs that everyone karaokes.
[00:36:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: If you go to a karaoke spot or you're in the pizza restaurant and they hand the microphone to your tour guide 98 percent chance, she's going to sing Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On with the reverb on high or on the bus. Do you remember on the bus? They used to sing it too.
[00:36:14] Jordan Harbinger: They do.
[00:36:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: That was so interesting.
[00:36:15] Jordan Harbinger: Did you ever do karaoke on the bus? Like, did you ever sing anything?
[00:36:18] Gabriel Mizrahi: Try not to inflict my voice on anybody who doesn't need to hear it because — I mean, I can talk fine, but I'm a terrible singer.
[00:36:25] Jordan Harbinger: One night, this is on YouTube somewhere. I can't remember exactly where it is. It's like on my old, old, old YouTube account that I probably don't have access to anymore. This video probably has a bunch of plays. I should go to find it. Actually, Bob Fogarty, if you can link it in the show notes, that would be awesome. It's probably called something like American National Anthem in North Korea because I karaoked the Star-Spangled Banner on a bus in North Korea.
[00:36:48] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, nice.
[00:36:49] Jordan Harbinger: And I did it because our tour guide was asked to sing the North Korean National Anthem. And he said, "Okay. But everyone has to stand." And I said, "Well, while you're all standing, you want us to hear the American National Anthem?" And he was like, "Yeah, I want to hear it. I don't know if I've ever heard it before." So I stood there and did it. And people were like. And so the comments on the YouTube video are like, "This guy is either the dumbest guy in the world or has balls of steel for karaoking the US National Anthem in North Korea."
[00:37:13] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's so amazing.
[00:37:14] Jordan Harbinger: And there's all these comments. Like, "It's not really North Korea. It's fake." Because no one could possibly believe that any idiot would stand up there and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. And it's like, people like, "Nah, dude." You can look out — you know, you can see the pins of the guides and everything. Like this is North Korea, man.
[00:37:28] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:37:28] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, if you have questions for us, you can hit the button in the Stereo app and leave us a question. We're going to be doing Q and A pretty soon. This is recorded live in the Stereo app. You can find that in iOS or Android App Stores if you're listening to us in the podcast feed. And we're going to be live again on Friday, November 27th. Hopefully, we'll do more of these, but Friday, 2:00 p.m. Pacific time is when we go live. So all right.
[00:37:50] There's a couple more stories that I definitely want to get to though, man.
[00:37:53] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:37:53] Jordan Harbinger: I know we've got — we might even have to do North Korea part three. I don't know. We've got so much.
[00:37:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: Tell me what do you remember? What are you thinking about?
[00:37:59] Jordan Harbinger: The train museum—
[00:38:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, the train museum.
[00:38:02] Jordan Harbinger: —which sounds boring, but is fascinating and ridiculous at the same time.
[00:38:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: The best, yeah.
[00:38:07] Jordan Harbinger: The train museum, for some reason. Yes. There are trains in there. And in fact, I think there's actually a train car that belonged to Kim Jong-il or something like that.
[00:38:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yes.
[00:38:15] Jordan Harbinger: And he has a MacBook in there.
[00:38:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, does he? I don't remember that.
[00:38:18] Jordan Harbinger: He has a MacBook Pro in the train and they're like, "This is preserved the way it was when he died." And I'm like, "The dude was a Mac user?"
[00:38:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: Huge Steve Jobs fan Kim Jong-il.
[00:38:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:28] Gabriel Mizrahi: Also famously afraid of flying.
[00:38:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, probably for good reason.
[00:38:32] Gabriel Mizrahi: Probably knew what would happen if he tried, but was famously afraid of aviation. I think that's why he took that train and they had — didn't they have like a ton of track built to other countries? So that he could get around and it would take him days to do his official state visits because he could only do it with the train that now sits in that museum.
[00:38:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. He would go to Russia like he'd traveled thousands of miles on his train car.
[00:38:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:38:52] Jordan Harbinger: That thing was like bulletproof and whatever. And he had his own train conductor — you know, he had his own staff. And he had a sat phone and I freaking MacBook Pro
[00:39:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: They preserve that stuff. Like it's a museum of ancient technology, like behold, the wonders of the first-generation Blackberry. I do remember also in that train museum, there were a lot of paintings. It was almost an art museum and a train museum together in one place. Right?
[00:39:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it had a ton of paintings in there. Of course, every painting in North Korea is pretty much a propaganda painting. So there is one that was Kim Jong-il as a baby being held by, I guess, his father Kim Il-sung and the mother's like shooting a Japanese soldier and the father has a baby in one arm and a rifle. And I remember asking our tour guide, "Don't you think it's weird that they brought a baby into the battle?" And she just started laughing and she tried to control it because you're definitely not supposed to laugh at a painting of the leaders. So she was really trying hard to control herself, but it was so absurd that there was a baby. Because I remember the first thing someone asked was, "Is this a real scene? Did this really happen?" And they're all like, "Yes."
[00:39:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:39:56] Jordan Harbinger: "Yes, the Japanese attacked Mount Paektu and they defended—" And it's like, "Well, why did they bring the baby?"
[00:40:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, this is their waterloo. They're like, "This definitely happened. This is a very important moment." And then you're like, "Yeah, but why do they bring an infant to the middle of this deathly battle."
[00:40:09] Jordan Harbinger: We talked a little about this last week. But they don't have answers, but they try to come up with answers for everything on the spot. And when they can't, they just make something up. So like five, 10 minutes later, the local guide, who's the museum guide and our tour guide go, "Oh, okay. We have an answer for you now. And I was like, "Of course, you do just made this up." They go, "So they thought it would be beneficial for him to get battle experience early because of the revolution. And they knew he was going to be the general. So he wanted to get battle experience." And I'm like, "He's an infant? That being next to weapons that are being fired, both at them by Japanese soldiers and from them by the leader, the founder of North Korea, whatever." And they were like, "Yeah, it's important for him to get battle experience early." And I was just like, "Okay, even you don't believe, right? Come on."
[00:40:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: First of all — come on zero-chill in that answer.
[00:40:56] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:40:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: Number two, that baby's hippocampus hasn't even developed.
[00:40:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: What is the baby going to remember about this? Like, it doesn't make any sense.
[00:41:03] Jordan Harbinger: There's so many things like that in the country that are just laughing ridiculous. Neil Strauss went with us on one of our trips. He's an author of many huge books, including one called The Game, which is about pickup artists and mind control experiments. He knows all this stuff. And he was saying, "This is like the game, but for running a country with total control."
[00:41:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:41:24] Jordan Harbinger: And that to me was a bold statement because this is a guy who's studied all of this and written a bestselling book about it. And he's like the whole — everything we're doing, all the things we're seeing is a playbook for how to control what people are thinking and manage perception.
[00:41:40] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:41:41] Jordan Harbinger: And it's true, the whole country from everything that's on television on two channels that they have or whatever. The TVs are locked on a channel, the radios are locked on a channel. You're not allowed to change the channel. You can't modify the TV. That's illegal. Did we talk last week about how every house has a speaker in it?
[00:41:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: No. No.
[00:41:57] Jordan Harbinger: Oh gosh. So this is very 1984. If you've read that book, every house has a speaker inside it that you can't turn off and it plays, "The news." It wakes you up at, I don't know, six o'clock every morning or whatever it is by playing music. They have news, but the news is always yelling and it's always like the United States is going to bomb us. We have to tighten our belts and dah, dah, dah, dah. Because I've asked about what it's saying. You can turn the volume down a little, but it doesn't really do anything because I've messed with the one in the house that we went to on that collective farm. I asked if I could touch it and they were like, "Sure." You can't really turn it off.
[00:42:31] That to me is not just straight out of 1984, but it is kind of disturbing because we talk here about freedom of speech. Obviously, they don't have anything remotely like that in North Korea, but you don't even have freedom from speech in that place. You have to listen to propaganda. And I know that we mentioned there's no electricity in the majority of the country. There are vans that will pull up that have the speakers mounted on the roof and they will play the propaganda tape for that day.
[00:42:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:42:58] Jordan Harbinger: Blasting it from the van. And you see that all the time at construction sites and in small villages without electricity, you'll see the van pull up and you'll hear them blast the propaganda. You cannot escape it. So not only do you not have freedom of speech, you don't have freedom from speech.
[00:43:11] And Gabriel, you know, now that I say this, I'm starting to think that — I've been to hotels there and you may have too — maybe this is just something I noticed as an audio nerd. On the floor of certain hotels, like not on the floor-floor, but on the, what do you call like the base, the molding on the bottom of the floor? You know, those like baseboards that connects the wall to the floor.
[00:43:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, crown molding, perhaps.
[00:43:31] Jordan Harbinger: Crown molding, yeah. In many hotels, I've looked around because I'm always looking at the hotel room and looking at all this stuff. I've found audio jacks. On the wall that is kind of not hidden, but they're not in a place where you would normally look. They're behind a chair next to a table or something like that. And they're the old phonograph, like the quarter-inch jacks that you used in the '80s and the '70s. And I'd be like, what is this for? And nobody would tell me what they were for. None of the guides knew. I asked if the staff knew. And nobody had a clue. And now that I think about it, I'm willing to bet that if you stay there and you're North Korean, they plug in a speaker for you. That has to be what that is.
[00:44:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: Got it. Yeah. That makes sense.
[00:44:10] Jordan Harbinger: Because I was like, "What do they have? Why do they have a music system here? It doesn't make any sense. It's like a mono jack."
[00:44:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: I mean, they're not playing Spotify.
[00:44:16] Jordan Harbinger: No, no, no, no. Although Kim Jong-un probably has a wicked playlist, literally a wicked playlist.
[00:44:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's called my wicked playlist.
[00:44:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right, my wicked playlist. Yeah. Total control volume one by Kim Jong-un.
[00:44:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's what I call music. Oh man, so Jordan, do you remember — you spent a little bit of time in China, like before and after your trips to North Korea, there's a place called on the border. It's called Dandong, right?
[00:44:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, Dandong.
[00:44:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: You had some experiences there. I haven't been there. What did you see in Dandong?
[00:44:47] Jordan Harbinger: So Dandong was — it's a border town right next to North Korea. It's an interesting place because I went there and I, last minute, bought a boat tour to North Korea for Chinese tourists. And I said, look, "I'm American. Can I still go?" And they're like, "Yeah, we don't get off the boat." So you bought this boat and you go into, I think, the Tumen River and you're just driving around in the river and they drive you past North Korean guard towers. You can't see much because there's, by design, nothing there. They're just kind of pointing out soldiers. Well, the captain of the boat says, "Put away your cameras. The soldiers don't like it when you point cameras at them. They consider it to be illegal." And I was like, "Oh yeah. Okay, fine. I won't do it." So we put our cameras away.
[00:45:27] Well, Chinese tourists are not great at following rules. And so they busted out their cameras and they were like, "We're just going to keep taking pictures." One of the soldiers on the bank of the river, who came out to sort of greet us by walking out of whatever machine gun pillbox was aimed at China and aimed at the river, the Yalu River. And he aimed his rifle at the boat. And he was not just sort of casually aiming the rifle at the boat. He was looking straight down the barrel.
[00:45:53] Gabriel Mizrahi: Jeez.
[00:45:53] Jordan Harbinger: You know, like he was in the sights and the boat captain came on and started yelling at us in Chinese and turned around immediately.
[00:46:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:46:00] Jordan Harbinger: Which I thought was maybe an overreaction, but as it turns out, North Korean soldiers have machine-gunned Chinese people to death for. Like having a disabled boat and sort of floating up against North Korean land. They don't come out and go, "Oh, what's the problem?" They just shoot everyone on the boat. It's absolutely crazy. These are allied countries.
[00:46:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: I'm assuming that was not on the pamphlet for your boat tour.
[00:46:23] Jordan Harbinger: No, no, no. So we kind of turned around, but they were zooming around close to the land. And then as the soldiers started to come out, they just turned back and we went home. But that river, that Yalu River, it freezes over. And it's only a couple, maybe a dozen meters wide, if that, so you can really, you could walk across that in a matter of seconds if you were running, if it were frozen over, you could easily do that.
[00:46:44] Gabriel Mizrahi: At certain points. Yeah.
[00:46:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. At certain points. And that's how a lot of people get over into China from Dandong. Also another interesting element. I noticed that a lot of the coffee shops on the river that looks over to North Korea were owned by white Canadian people or Americans. And I go and sit down and I remember writing a postcard in one. I think it was with Sailor Joe at the time. I'm writing a postcard. And I noticed the music is like Christian, you know, very Christian. And then we go to another cafe and they're playing Christian rock and then another cafe and they're playing like Psalms.
[00:47:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. You're like, "Why are they blessed in a lighthouse on the border with North Korea?
[00:47:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So, I finally asked and I noticed that the building that we're in is huge, but the cafe in the front is relatively small and I go, "Hey, where are you from? You own this?" And she was like, "Yeah, we're Also, from Canada or we're from Utah," or whatever, you know, stuff like that. And I thought like, this is bizarre and come to find out a ton of missionaries, Mormon and otherwise, they come to Dandong and they start businesses and they buy buildings on the Yalu River. And one of the reasons they do this is because they look for refugees crossing the river, especially in the wintertime. And they hide them in some of these buildings.
[00:47:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yep. They're a part of the underground railroad.
[00:48:00] Jordan Harbinger: They're part of the underground railroad. So they buy or rent the real estate on the river so they can see people who are crossing in need of help because if they get caught by Chinese police, they're probably going to get turned in and go to a prison camp and possibly die.
[00:48:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:48:12] Jordan Harbinger: So these missionaries try to find them and smuggle them out of the country and especially into South Korea. That I found interesting because there were just random white blonde-haired girls running a coffee shop and charging American prices. And they, some of them had youth hostels and other ones. I was like, "Why do you have this huge building?" And they go, "Oh, we live upstairs." So I thought like, "Oh, how interesting. I bet you're not the only person that lives upstairs here."
[00:48:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:48:37] Jordan Harbinger: You know, there's probably other people that live here that you're not talking about. I thought that was fascinating. Lastly, Dandong was also quite interesting because there's a North Korean restaurant there that is run by North Koreans and you walk in there and you can get food that's a thousand times better than the food at restaurants inside North Korea and the women are dancing and singing and they're wearing their pins over their heart with the leader's face on it. And we went a couple of times and they loved us because we were goofing around and we were talking about how we just got back from North Korea and we loved it and showing photos off on Sailor Joe's iPads. So they were stoked because they probably hadn't been home in forever. And many of them might never have been to Pyongyang actually. They may never have actually been there. So we were showing them photos and everything and they loved us, man.
[00:49:23] This is years ago, we actually asked them to come and hang out with us the next day. And they were like, "No, we have to work." And then, Sailor Joe was like, "Well, when do you have time off?" And they're like, "We don't." And he said, "Well, this is open in the morning. What are you doing during the day?" And finally, we got an answer which was, "We have a boss." And we were like, "Oh, you have a boss." Because they lived in the building where the restaurant was and there were like the kind of, you know, the black suit, double pin wearing guys hanging around. And I thought like, "Oh, I bet these guys live here. The women live here and they're not allowed to leave the building at all."
[00:49:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. That's pretty typical actually for North Koreans who work outside of the country, they are watched very closely. My understanding is that they really literally have transport to, and from the place where they're living if it's not the actual workplace if it's an apartment building nearby. They're just going from the apartment, building to the worksite, back to the apartment building. And if they stray from that path, they are in serious trouble. So that adds up.
[00:50:16] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. We've seen documentaries on this, right? Where there are North Koreans, they all live in one apartment building. And they even during days off, they're just sitting in the building.
[00:50:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:50:26] Jordan Harbinger: They're not going anywhere. We saw that about how they essentially export slave labor to other countries from North Korea. And they have to send the money back to the regime.
[00:50:34] Remember at the end of this, we're going to do 15 or so minutes of Q and A — actually, we can kind of get into that now. I don't know how much we have left about North Korea. I feel like there's quite a bit left, but maybe we just leave that for another time.
[00:50:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: Let's talk to some people.
[00:50:46] Jordan Harbinger: Everybody who has questions, please hit the play button in the Stereo app. We're live on Stereo. If you're not listening to us live, go grab the Stereo app. You can at the bottom, leave us a question and we will take those in just a second.
[00:50:57] Let's just blast through downsides real quick so that we don't have a part three.
[00:51:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, after you leave North Korea and the high wears off a little bit, you start to realize that there are a lot of downsides. I mean, obviously the obvious ones that we've been talking about for the last two weeks. Certainly, about living there, but about visiting as well. How do I explain it? It's kind of like the excitement and the joy that you felt while you were there and you were meeting these cool people and you were seeing things that you would never have gotten to see, and you're having these very unusual experiences and then you come home. And then for me, it was replaced with a very low-grade sadness. I guess I would describe it.
[00:51:28] One of the biggest things is that you go there for seven days, 10 days, and you make some really good friends. You bond very deeply because you're traveling together. And then you, you can't stay in touch with them. There's no Facebook obviously, right? There's no Twitter, obviously, no direct email. If you want to be in touch with these people, it's not going to be a phone call, which costs, what was it? $13 a minute or something, like crazy random—
[00:51:50] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, right, because we could dial out from the hotel. I forgot about that.
[00:51:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right. But you can't dial in like you can't from LA call somebody in Pyongyang and be like, "What's up? How are you doing?" It's just that phone calls doesn't exist.
[00:52:00] Jordan Harbinger: They have fax machines that work I found.
[00:52:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, great.
[00:52:02] Jordan Harbinger: But there are no phones that you can use. And I think it's probably because they want a printed record — they want to know all of that communication coming in and out.
[00:52:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:52:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:52:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well, I don't have a fax machine. So, you know, at that point, the only way to be in touch with your friends there is to hand-deliver letters through other tour guides. I mean, you have to print it out or write it by hand, give it to somebody who's physically going to the country. They can give it to the tour guide or the person you want to be in touch with. But then they have to also play courier and bring a letter back with them. And they're in China and you're in America. It's just not going to happen. So strangely for years after you go to North Korea, you're thinking about the people you met there. You're thinking about them. Like, they're your friends, but you're not really friends in the way — you're not modern-day friends. You're not friends the way people are friends now. You're like some old-style 1700s friend. When you took a road trip to old Peking or something, and you met some interesting fellow in a tavern and you wanted to be friends, but then you're just not in touch until the next time you decide to take them to old Peking again.
[00:52:59] Jordan Harbinger: Right, you can send a package once every five years and it gets there 18 months later.
[00:53:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: Exactly. If it gets there at all. Yeah. And then, you know, how are they going to get in touch with you? And I would say that was one of the biggest downsides because those relationships don't really have any time or space to blossom basically. They just kind of exist within the weird vacuum of North Korea.
[00:53:17] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point. You can basically only be pen pals, but also kind of, not really, like you could write to our Chinese tour company and they would then take your letter printed off your email into North Korea and give it to the guide next time they saw them, but it would take weeks or months to get delivered. So I just kind of gave up on some of that.
[00:53:34] Another downside I would say is, look, we've told some funny stories and some really interesting ones, of course, because the place is full of that, but also it's kind of — I don't mean to drag the place down because we've already talked a lot about it — but it's really dull, man. They drink all the time. They even call it state-sponsored alcoholism because there's just absolutely nothing else to do there. And I'm not exaggerating at all. You'll go somewhere and you'll see a guy fishing and then two years later, you'll go back to that same place and same guy—
[00:54:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Same guy.
[00:54:03] Jordan Harbinger: —is there fishing.
[00:54:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yes. That happens all the time. I remember being in the — what was it? The Kim Il-sung Square. We were having coffee at those "Viennese" cafes, which I guess is Viennese. If it was made in a sort of vaguely German-style, I guess. I don't know.
[00:54:18] Jordan Harbinger: It's like the only place with a cappuccino or espresso machine in the entire country. And they're like, "Here you go."
[00:54:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's for rich tourists. You guys can have this place. And it's right on the corner of the square. It's actually kind of cute. But I went there and there was this one guy who had a very distinctive face and he was riding a bicycle through the square. And I was like, "Oh, interesting face guy. A guy on a bicycle. Oh, okay." I didn't think anything else about it? 18 months later, I'm leading a tour there. We'd go to the Viennese cafe. I stepped aside for a moment. Same guy riding the same bicycle at the same exact time through the same exact spot. It was like, those are the moments that make you feel like you are in the Truman show?
[00:54:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, well, that guy is probably a state security officer whose job it is to keep an eye on tourists in the square and he just rides his bike around.
[00:54:59] Gabriel Mizrahi: Fair enough.
[00:54:59] Jordan Harbinger: And then when there's no tourists, he sits in chain smokes in a corner somewhere, and just stares out at nothing.
[00:55:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: But you know what, all the other people who are not spies or police officers, like you see the same bartenders at the cafes, you see the same people at the department store. Like it's just the same thing every day. It's hard to wrap your head around that level of boredom.
[00:55:22] Jordan Harbinger: On that same token, a lot of the people you can tell that they're very sad and very tired. And do you remember some of the bartenders at the hotels where they would shut off like robots when you weren't talking with them?
[00:55:32] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh yeah.
[00:55:32] Jordan Harbinger: And they would just stare to nowhere and you're going, "This is a person who hasn't had a good meal in forever and is like massively overworked, is massively tired. Can't say or do anything."
[00:55:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: And not stimulated.
[00:55:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There's just nothing for them. And they're like 26.
[00:55:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:55:47] Jordan Harbinger: You know, 26-year-old woman. And she's just like a robot that turns off. So weird, like low batteries. A lot of people have low batteries.
[00:55:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: Low batteries. Yeah. Yeah. Like the kinds that you get from Amazon that you can recharge, but they never quite work properly.
[00:56:00] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:56:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:56:01] Jordan Harbinger: It's very much of that and it's sad to see young people that are good-looking and like would otherwise be fun losing their hair due to malnutrition. You'll see that on the site as a sort of the countryside, especially. You'll see people that are probably 35 but are like five feet tall or less and have no hair. And they look really kind of thin and emasculated because they don't have enough to eat. You do see that if you're paying attention. They try and keep that away from you but it's impossible because if you have 20/20 vision and you're out in the countryside, they can only sort of groom and keep everything so pristine.
[00:56:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:56:34] Jordan Harbinger: They try, they do try, but there's a lot of people that looked like they've just been awake for three weeks and many of them possibly have — they have a huge meth problem there because you can make meth and people do a lot of meths so that they're not hungry and that they can keep working. So that to me is a little depressing. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. It's kind of like — it feels like a lot of the country is just like an NPC, right? A non-player character and a game created by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the history of the entire world.
[00:57:05] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's a really good way to put it.
[00:57:06] Jordan Harbinger: That's what it feels like.
[00:57:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, NPC. Man, what a reference. That's a great way to put it. Yeah, it's hard when you see that to not feel a little bit of conflict around the sadness of what the regime is doing. We talked about that last week. You know, if you go to North Korea, are you supporting what they do? No, you're not both practically and intellectually. It's not really what's going on. But once you go home, you sort of can't help, but think like, I don't know if I need to like, mess around with that place much more, you know, like I saw it, I get it. I understand. But what they're doing right now, the way the government is structured right now, I don't know if it's worth it. It's just too difficult to put aside everything you know about what's actually going on in the county.
[00:57:41] Jordan Harbinger: Can we do some sort of goody-two-shoes broader takeaways, right? Like the world is not what you see on the news, for example. Do you want to run through those?
[00:57:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: If you want to understand a place, you have to go there. You have to spend time with people who live there. You can't just watch a five-minute segment on the BBC and decide that, "Oh, that's what the country's like because that's what the news decides to talk about." Yes, North Korea is a dangerous place. It's a horrifying place. It's a deeply troubling regime. But the prison camps, the nuclear program, that's all that makes the news. The people there are, as we said so many times, they're incredibly kind, they're respectful, they're warm, they're nice, they're welcoming. They're just wonderful people for the most part. And that's a big thing I took away. I mean, it seems so obvious, but most of our experience of North Korea is what you see on Fox or on CNN or on the Internet. And they're not going to write about all the normal, boring stuff that happens there. They're going to write about the exceptional stuff that gets you to click on it. And that's usually nukes, prison camps, and other weird stuff. And so I think that was one of the biggest things I really learned from those travels that the world really isn't what you see on the news.
[00:58:39] What did you take away?
[00:58:40] Jordan Harbinger: You're right. They never really cover the Mass Games. They don't say like, "Mass Games season is starting in North Korea and it's incredible. And here's some footage from the one that we got invited to." They just say like, "There's a missile test."
[00:58:51] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:58:52] Jordan Harbinger: So it is a little unfair. Granted that a missile test is a much bigger deal than a great performance because it is, by all means, a great performance. It's incredible. And it's like nothing you'll ever see. Similarly, I think a lot of people think North Korea is ultra-dangerous, and don't get me wrong. It is, if you do something wrong, the punishments are disproportionate to the crime in every single instance, but from a day-to-day basis of just walking around North Korea is safer than say, Costa Rica, Mexico. If you follow these super clear rules, you're not really at risk most of the time. The problem is you can cross over from not really at risk and having a great time to, "Oh my God, this spiraled out of control. And now I can't go home."
[00:59:32] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:59:32] Jordan Harbinger: It can happen and just way too quickly.
[00:59:35] Gabriel Mizrahi: Good point.
[00:59:35] Jordan Harbinger: Kind of like walking home from a bar drunk in Costa Rica and getting mugged by somebody and getting stabbed to death. Like situations can change, except this is the government doing it to you for publicity. And that's what makes it even more terrifying, I think.
[00:59:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. And I will say on top of that, that North Korea as a people and as a place is stunning. When you picture North Korea is camps, you know, probably boring concrete structures in big cities, empty fields, trash burning, and metal trash cans in the countryside or stuff like that. But there's so much incredible nature, beautiful land, awesome people. Sadly, it's the people who pay the price for their government's decisions and the regime. They're brutal. They're despicable, but the people are just people like they're like anywhere else you go, they want the same things. They love the same things. They want family and connection and family and support and meaning in their lives. You know, you really realize how universal that stuff is when you go to someplace, that's super bizarre in the big picture, but on the ground, it's almost exactly like talking to your neighbor back at home. It also makes you feel incredibly lucky. I will say that.
[01:00:32] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to us — well, maybe you're listening to us live in the Stereo app. And if you're not, if you're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show podcast feed, go grab the Stereo app. You can submit questions to us live. We'll be doing this on Fridays at 2:00 p.m. Pacific during the month of November.
[01:00:44] All right. Let's dive into some questions here. Yeah. Let's throw in the AirPods and go straight into the Stereo app.
[01:00:50] Stereo Questioners: What kind of food did you guys eat in North Korea?
[01:00:53] Jordan Harbinger: So we were served a lot of the same crap over and over at restaurants. I mean, not just the same type of food that happened for sure, but there were a lot of people that, for example, didn't want to eat the whole fish that had scales on it, that was on a plate. So they would leave it on the table. And then the next day that fish would be out there. And then we were like, "Is that the same fish?" And eventually, we started mutilating some of the food because we're like, "I bet it's the same fish." Like we'd poke like a hole, you know, right near the tail. And turned out, they were just leaving that same fish out for us over and over and over. It'd be like a whole dried fish, something kind of unappetizing to our palate. And we had to buy hot sauce at one store in China before we went to North Korea because everything was so bland.
[01:01:39] What was very bizarre was one time at the end of a trip. I can't remember if this was like my second or third time in the country. We went to another restaurant inside the hotel and it was open randomly. And I think I went with maybe Neil Strauss or something like that. And he goes, "I don't want anything that we've had before." So he ordered some sort of rice dish. I got to tell you it was delicious and flavorful. And that's when I realized that the food we were eating at the hotels was not only really cheap, gross food, but they had designed it to probably be palatable for Westerners. And so they just said, "Oh, the Westerners, like this bland crap, they don't like the spicy flavorful food that we would cook here in Korea." So they made garbage ass food for us in the hotels. And they definitely have the ability and knowledge to make good food. They totally did. They just didn't serve it to us because they thought we probably didn't like it. And I remember at every restaurant where we would go with the guides. The guides would sit at a different table and they would eat a totally different meal than us. They would eat spicy, delicious Korean food. And then I'd say, "Can I eat that?" And they would say, "No, that's not suitable for Westerners." And I said, "Next time, I want to eat that food. Not the food that they serve." And then the guide would say, "No, I don't think it's suitable. I'll ask." And then I'd say, "Great. Okay. Can you ask?" And they'd go ask. And then the waitress would come out and say, "No, our food is not suitable for foreigners." They would literally say it's not suitable.
[01:03:04] Gabriel Mizrahi: Interesting.
[01:03:04] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know what that means. But basically, they were just like, "No, I'm not going to serve you. The Korean food, you're going to eat this other crap that we serve to Westerners." I don't know why, but it's a little unnerving because you're kind of like, "What am I eating here? Are you sure this is a duck, et cetera?"
[01:03:18] Gabriel Mizrahi: I had a very different experience. There are places you go to North Korea where it's not exactly a culinary wonderland. And there are places you go where you are shocked at how good the food is. Like, it's exciting. And they're trying to impress you. And I can't even remember some of those places that are a little bit hard to predict, but there are always two or three cities or restaurants where they just absolutely kill it. It's like they've been watching the Food Network all day and they were just waiting for you to arrive. But obviously, they weren't because it's North Korea and that doesn't exist, but they do have pretty good cuisine when they can get the supplies I will say. And they did not just treat us poorly for 10 days at all. Let's take the next one.
[01:03:54] Stereo Questioners: Hey man. It's Bronson here. Thanks, Jordan and Gabriel for the show. I was wondering how is it that North Korean soldiers could just gun down like a group of Chinese that are drifting towards the shore on that river you mentioned, and it not be an international incident. I'm not really familiar with the history between the two countries. But it seems like it'd be an international incident if that happened here. So is it just kind of like kind of scared of it because of the news?
[01:04:29] Jordan Harbinger: It was. In fact, I'm going to find the story and we can link to it in the show notes on jordanharbinger.com/podcast on the podcast page when this comes out next Sunday, I guess this comes out, we will post this. I'm going to find it while we answer the next question. I will Google this because I know it happened at least once.
[01:04:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: But in general, Bronson, I would say, yeah, I mean that stuff does usually make the news. I mean, assuming that it's not some covert operation or something like that. I don't think it happens every day or every week or something like that. It's an unusual incident for sure. But there are things that happen there frequently that we never hear about. And I'm sure most of them involve refugees. People who are defecting or running across the river in the winter and trying to get into China. If those people get caught or if they make it into China and then China catches them if the police in the border towns catch them and they send them back. I don't even want to know what happens to those people. If you want to check that out, you can read about it on the Internet. It's pretty, pretty dark. And that won't make the news because it's not newsworthy in America. And it happens too frequently and there's just, I don't know, not enough transparency and it's sad and it's bizarre. And yeah, so there's a lot of stuff related to North Korea that people just do not know about. Unless you read a book or watch a documentary.
[01:05:37] Jordan Harbinger: I actually did find an incident that wasn't even the one I was thinking about. This is a new incident that happened in August of this year. North Korea plays with fire after shooting dead three Chinese fishermen. And essentially what they did is they were operating illegally in North Korean waters, apparently, allegedly, and they just shot them all and opened fire — the patrol boat, the North Korean patrol boat opened fire on the Chinese vessel, which was supposedly fishing without permission on August 11th. And they spotted off the coast and they just said, Hey, "These are our islands." And they opened fire and killed three men instantly. I guess, normally, the patrol boats never really go beyond making threats so that they can get bribes. But this time they just said, screw it. And they went ahead and shot them all.
[01:06:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: There you have it. Stuff happens. Let's take the last one in the queue here.
[01:06:28] Stereo Questioners: Hey guys, I wanted to ask about some practical takeaways about the Frisbee story. So you mentioned that you use that to kind of bypass the social anxiety that the locals had. And how can you extrapolate that into a practical takeaway into other areas?
[01:06:48] Jordan Harbinger: Good question. You want to start tackling that one?
[01:06:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: I mean, where my mind goes is that. There are things about being human that are so universal that goes beyond language, location, status politics. And I know this is a little bit cliche, but there's something about games that brings people together in a way that doesn't involve any of the things that tear us apart. And that was what ultimate Frisbee was about. That's actually why they wanted to have that tournament in Pyongyang because we've heard about the term sports diplomacy, right? I mean, we talk about this with the Olympics all the time. Especially in years where there's a lot of conflicts. It's interesting, right? You've got countries that are at war who will compete against one another in the Olympics. And those people are doing more work to build bridges between the two countries than the leaders of those countries can do because they're operating on a plane on a dimension that is not infected by the larger politics of the countries that are involved. That's what I felt was going on with the Frisbee on a very, very small micro level.
[01:07:48] What can we extrapolate from that? I guess that we all want to play. I mean, I think that's what it really comes down to. There's something inside of everybody at every age, until you die, that you just want to throw a Frisbee back and forth. And no amount of warfare is going to get in the way of an old man and a 20-something-year-old guy from LA who wants to toss around a piece of plastic. And honestly, again, I know it's a little cliche, but I found that really touching. That's what I would take away. Jordan, what would be your takeaway?
[01:08:13] Jordan Harbinger: I remember a lot of the North Koreans playing in like their dress shoes. So it sort of showed me that actually, they were having a lot of fun. We were all having a lot of fun together. And for just like one second, I think a lot of people forgot that we were in the most restrictive regime and the entire planet and essentially in a prison country, prison state, and you're right it was touching. Do you remember a bunch of deer also just wandering through the playing field, just wild animals, just wandering through?
[01:08:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: No.
[01:08:38] Jordan Harbinger: This was possibly before or after the tournament or possibly, I can't remember exactly when this was, but a huge herd of deer just wandered through. And it was one of those moments where I thought, "Okay, something really incredible here." We were playing Frisbee and having fun and sort of partying with the guides and you're right. It really just kind of highlighted our shared humanity as cliche as it sounds, because it was one of the more unstructured times that we had with locals. That was so rare. It's so extremely rare.
[01:09:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: And just to build on that, I would say probably that the other thing that you can take away from that is that you can play at any time like that option is available to you no matter what circumstances you're in.
[01:09:18] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks for joining us, everyone. Remember we'll be live once again on Friday, November 27th at 2:00 p.m. Pacific. So download the Stereo app and follow along with us live next time.
[01:09:28] Links to everything we mentioned will be in the show notes. Please use our website if you buy any books or anything from guests to hear on The Jordan Harbinger Show. Worksheets are always in the show notes as well. Transcripts for episodes are in the show notes. There's going to be a video of this Stereo Sunday going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or just hit me on LinkedIn. You can find Gabriel at @GabeMizrahi on Twitter or @GabrielMizrahi on Instagram.
[01:09:56] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show subscribe to the course and the newsletter. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:10:12] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and my amazing team, which is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabe Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into North Korea, weird news, travel, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of the show. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:10:47] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, I wanted to give you a preview of my conversation with the legendary Dennis Quaid. We got into rejection, both in Hollywood and outside, and how he brings his characters to life on screen. This is really a fun episode. I think you're going to dig it.
[01:11:05] Dennis Quaid: I didn't know at the time if I wanted to be an actor. That was back near the time where I wanted to be a veterinarian and, or a forest ranger, forest ranger.
[01:11:14] Jordan Harbinger: You'd be fighting fires right now.
[01:11:16] Dennis Quaid: Yes, I would. Matter of fact, I've been evacuated from my house right now.
[01:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: Are you really? I saw the smoke when I flew in this morning. You know our flight originally was canceled and I was like, "You got to get me to LA, I got Dennis Quaid coming here and can't stand them up with this bullshit fire."
[01:11:28] You use a lot of different accents in many of your films. I'm curious how you learn and practice those.
[01:11:32] Dennis Quaid: My brother and I grew up doing impersonations like Ed Sullivan and John Wayne and everybody that was around us. So I pick up on accents badly even. You know, like in India I will be taking—
[01:11:47] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man, are you the guy that hears one on TV and then spends the rest of the week annoying everybody in the house?
[01:11:52] Dennis Quaid: I prepare in secret.
[01:11:54] Jordan Harbinger: So like you're in the shower going, "One more, Jimmy! One more!"
[01:11:58] Dennis Quaid: "I can't get her to cool, Captain!"
[01:12:02] Jordan Harbinger: That one's awesome. That's definitely good. There's a reason you get paid the big bucks for these and I don't. That's for sure.
[01:12:08] I know music's a big part of your life. You wrote a few songs for three of your films, been in a band for like 20.
[01:12:14] Dennis Quaid: Same guys.
[01:12:15] Jordan Harbinger: Same guys.
[01:12:16] Dennis Quaid: For 19 years, this Halloween.
[01:12:18] Jordan Harbinger: Well, happy bandiversary.
[01:12:21] Dennis Quaid: Wow. That's really good.
[01:12:23] Jordan Harbinger: You can steal that. I definitely think I just made that up just now.
[01:12:26] Dennis Quaid: Really?
[01:12:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:12:27] Dennis Quaid: I've never heard.
[01:12:28] Jordan Harbinger: I've also never heard.
[01:12:29] Dennis Quaid: Wow. It just came out.
[01:12:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:12:30] Dennis Quaid: See what happens when you relax.
[01:12:32] Jordan Harbinger: Is it true that you play with your band in bare feet?
[01:12:35] Dennis Quaid: Yes, when we first started out, The Beastie Boys, they don't wear shirts. I won't wear shoes.
[01:12:43] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Dennis Quaid, including how he uses fear to stay motivated, check out episode 279 right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
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