Dear Leader’s Playhouse

I received a perplexingly titled book the other day, The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, by B.R. Myers, which piqued my interest in how North Koreans branded themselves. In fact, I’ve always wanted to see those enormous propaganda events (bottom). So I went to the website of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which was surprisingly inviting (despite the black background). Perhaps this is because the DPRK is reaching out for tourists during the 2010 “Anniversary of the Great Leader Kim Jong Il.” It announced that all passports except those from the US would be accepted. So plans for my research trip were dashed.
 
On a hunch, I decided to visit the Central Intelligence Agency website to see what they had to say about DPRK tourism. And I stumbled onto this site for “Kids” (above). Here’s what it said: 
 
“Welcome. We’re glad you’re here to learn more about the Central
Intelligence Agency. The CIA is an independent US government agency
that provides national security “intelligence” to key US leaders so
they can make important, informed decisions. CIA employees gather
intelligence (or information) in a variety of ways, not just by
“spying” like you see in the movies or on TV (though we do some of that, too).
On the following pages, you can read more about us, play some games,
and help us solve some puzzles. Throughout this section, you’ll also
see some top secret things you won’t find anywhere else.”
 
 

 

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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