Sat, Oct 28, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Journalist finds laughter lacking in North Korea


A Danish journalist who infiltrated the US Republican Party's presidential campaign in 2004 said on Thursday that he had pulled off a much riskier stunt this year in North Korea.

Mads Bruegger, who works for Denmark's public television and is renowned for carrying out humorous stunts, said he and three others won permission to enter the reclusive state in May by posing as members of a left-wing theater troupe.

The quartet, including two South Korean-born Danes, staged an eclectic theater performance in Pyongyang, Bruegger said. They were allowed to film it, and other parts of their visit, saying it would be broadcast on Danish TV.

However, they didn't tell authorities their true intentions.

"The plan was to find out how laughter was doing in North Korea, the world's most reclusive country," Bruegger said.

The first episode will be aired Dec. 1 on Danish TV channel DR2.

His conclusion was that laughter is a rare commodity in the nation led by dictator Kim Jong-il -- which may have helped the Danes carry out their plot without anyone calling their bluff.

"No one grasped the thick irony and satire," Bruegger said. "I believe we only survived because 50 years of mind control has wiped out any sense of irony and satire."

An official at the North Korean Embassy in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, which also oversees Denmark, said he was not aware of the trip.

The Danes, who professed to be big supporters of North Korea's communist regime, appeared on North Korean TV and marched in an anti-US parade in Pyongyang, Bruegger said.

He said their recordings were approved by North Korean authorities. One clip, shown on Danish TV, showed the Danes presenting a pizza shovel as a gift to a North Korean official.

During that meeting, Bruegger said he made "a totally delirious speech" in which he wished Denmark would follow the North Korean example and "test fire missiles to defend our strong Danish culture."

In 2004, Bruegger and journalist Jakob Boeskov went undercover as Danish campaign volunteers backing US President George W. Bush. Trailed by a cameraman on a three-week trip across the US, they hobnobbed with local Republican committees, handed out leaflets at rallies and traded insults with Democratic hecklers.

The pair expressed their amazement afterward that nobody seemed to catch on to their stunt.

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