North Korean documentaries are en vogue now.

A friend passed me a roughly ten minute YouTube clip of a film produced in North Korea, still (according to the Snowden documents) a very opaque and difficult country to understand. Ostensibly shown to children at school, the film clip was posted to YouTube in 2007 and has nearly a million hits.

Unlike others of the vintage, it doesn't seem to be fake. (My native Korean translator confirmed that the dialect was North Korean, so he did not recognize all the words. I had to translate the closed captions, which are in bastardized Italian, to English.)

For sheer eeriness, check out the idyllic, almost pastoral life lived by the animated child. For one thing, the electricity is on. At night. Which is rare. And the countryside has forested hills and ample plant life; many in North Korea, particularly around populated areas, do not.


It opens with a small boy who has fallen asleep in a meadow. A white rabbit jumps playfully around him. The rabbit leads him to a beach. A chase ensues. The rabbit hides behind a bush.

The boy, named Sopal, dives for the rabbit, but the rabbit escapes. The boy runs into a friend, who asks him, "What are you doing here by yourself?" What's it to you, the boy says. His friends tells him that he saw the boy drawing a picture of an American face (the boy uses a slang word) in class instead of listening to the teacher.

Pshaw, the boy says. Why are you so worried? It's easy homework. It's about degrees. All of them are printed on the compass.

Back in his room, Sopal begins to do the homework. But he's confused. The question asks him to draw a 30 degree angle and a 90 degree angle. He tries, but he pencils in between the two and draws a helmet with the letters "US" on them. Frustrated, Sopal turns his compass into a gun, and pantomimes several shots at the U.S. helmet he has just drawn.

Then he dreams.

His homework paper turns into a bird that turns into a scene of attack. U.S. battleships approach. The boy has to muster his friends to help fight off the Americans.

Yes, pencils turns into rockets. Desks transform into tanks. Martial songs fill the background.

And yes, the boy must save the day at the end by actually using the protractor as its intended, because he needs to align the rocket properly in order to hit the invading U.S. ships.

Lesson: Don't neglect your studies. Because one day, you might have to kill the Americans with geometry.