VICE (2013) s06e30 Episode Script

Back in the DPRK & California Burning

1 SHANE SMITH: This week on Vice: we return to North Korea.
(SHOUTING IN UNISON) (CHEERING) SMITH: So the big news here, today, they did not trot out the ICBM technology, the big missiles that can reach the continental US.
SMITH: And then, the grim reality of climate change in California.
Fifty to 60 mile-per-hour winds pushing this fire right off the get-go.
I heard 80 football fields in a minute.
You can't outrun that.
ROBERT FOXWORTHY: Fires are going later and are burning more intense.
Something's happening that's a little different.
TOBONI: Holy shit! (THEME SONG PLAYING) (CROWD SHOUTING) They're saying that right now, it's time for change.
(SHOUTS INDISTINCTLY) (BAND PLAYING FANFARE) Vice has been covering North Korea for years.
In fact, some of my first reporting on camera was from inside the famously reclusive country.
I'm gonna lay a wreath at the statue of Kim Il Sung.
We have to do this as a token of respect.
We've been on many government-sanctioned tours, seen military parades, mass gymnastics, assorted government propaganda, along with libraries, palaces, and even their film studios.
We've reported from both sides of the DMZ, the southern side of which I'm standing on right now.
We've covered North Korea's impact outside its borders.
We've met those who have left the country and seen them struggle to adjust to the world outside.
We've even visited North Korean labor camps in the forests of Siberia.
But, probably, our most memorable North Korea story was our visit inside with Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters, which Marshal Kim Jong Un himself attended.
Now, all of this time, the one thing that has remained constant was the 70-year-long, fiercely adversarial relationship between North Korea and the United States and its allies.
BUSH: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.
But now, finally, and quite frankly, surprisingly, that appears to be changing.
(SPEAKING QUIETLY): We're here in Kim Il Sung Square.
You can hear a pin drop.
Everyone's waiting for the marshal to arrive.
Meanwhile, there's about 200,000 military people here.
The armies are arrayed.
There's a lot of people watching this globally, because of tensions between America and DPRK, and then the seeming détente in Singapore.
We're just waiting to see which missiles they're actually going to parade out.
Are they going to go on a peaceful stance and not show new missiles, or are they going to say, "Hey.
We have new ICBM missile technology that can reach America," which thereby sends a message.
So the big news here is today, they did not trot out the ICBM technology.
They did not trot out the so-called big boys, the big missiles that can reach the continental US.
So I think it's sending a message that they want to negotiate, to a lot of people watching in Beijing, a lot of people watching in Washington, that, okay, it seems to be like we're willing to talk.
(MAN SPEAKING KOREAN OVER PA SYSTEM) (ANNOUNCEMENT CONTINUING) - (BAND PLAYING) - (CHEERING) SMITH: Now, it wasn't just the absence of ICBMs that sent a message.
In a sign of improved relationships with China, the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, sent his right-hand man, Li Zhanshu, to attend the celebration.
Now, when it comes to North Korea, these kinds of political signals have huge significance.
Why? Well, because the DPRK has been forced to communicate in different ways due to its being considered a pariah state.
For decades, it's been almost universally condemned for its serious human rights abuses, but especially for its consistent, aggressive, and frequent nuclear saber rattling.
In the summer of 2017, relations with the US seemed to reach a new low, with President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un trading insults that seemingly threatened all-out war.
Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.
NEWSWOMAN: The North Korean leader reacted, calling him a "dotard.
" PRESIDENT TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.
They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
SMITH: Then suddenly, and very surprisingly, everything changed.
At a hastily organized summit in Singapore, President Trump met with Kim Jong Un, the first time a sitting president has ever met a North Korean leader and reaffirmed an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
I was really being tough, and so was he.
And we would go back and forth, and then we fell in love.
SMITH: Now, on top of this landmark agreement, North and South Korea began a series of bilateral summits, that have, in a show of good faith, demined part of the DMZ, taken down guard towers, and even, symbolically, shaken hands across the border.
Now, this was not only unthinkable a few months earlier, but is perhaps the most remarkable moment in the history of the two countries since the cessation of violence 70 years ago.
(APPLAUSE) We wanted to go to Pyongyang for ourselves, to see if North Korea was really ready to come in from the proverbial cold.
There's still only one way to travel in North Korea, and that's on a tightly scheduled, government-sanctioned tour.
We're here in Pyongyang to see the 70th anniversary of statehood, so we're going to go through the process of seeing various things.
This, for example, is a recreation of the birthplace of Kim Il Sung, the eternal president of the DPRK.
(TOUR GUIDE SPEAKING) SMITH: Now, North Korea may indeed be looking toward its future, but remain obsessed with their past, as evidenced by this politically charged, and, honestly, quite odd homage to its current and never-ending president, the long-deceased Kim Il Sung.
So, this is the magical well that Kim Il Sung, the eternal president, used.
If it's magic, I wish to be happy.
- Mm.
It's good.
- (TOUR GUIDE SPEAKS) No, you don't put it back.
Oh, sorry.
I did a bad thing.
I put my own water into the magic water.
What started with the best intentions, ended poorly.
More than ever, the North Koreans were keen to put their economy front and center, and show us how it's supposedly thriving despite sanctions.
The took us for an inside look at a silk factory in downtown Pyongyang.
(MACHINES WHIRRING) Now, while the North Koreans' intention was to show us the great working conditions here at the factory, we couldn't help but notice that everything, from the workers' lifestyles, to their quarters, remained heavily controlled.
SMITH: Where do the families live? (MUN JIN HYOK SPEAKING) - SMITH: Oh, right, right.
They're not married.
- Yeah, yeah.
But all we had to do is scratch the surface a little bit to see that these ideal working conditions for the, quote, unquote, "virgins" were actually quite heavily regulated.
So, beer and salted meat, bad.
(MUN JIN HYOK SPEAKING) I don't like that.
Rabbit and orange is bad.
(CHUCKLES): Beer and hairy crab is bad.
That's a bummer.
Pear and chickens are not good.
Well, I'm not gonna eat pear and chickens anytime soon.
What are all these posters of military missiles and weapons? SMITH: Mm-hmm.
And so this is a silk-weaving dormitory.
So, would posters like this be at every dormitory? Most dormitories would have, like, a military power? SMITH: Mm-hmm.
SMITH: If you guys unify, which everybody says you want to unify North and South Korea, then this won't be so important, because the military's not so important if you're not at war.
SMITH: Yeah.
SMITH: The North Koreans wanted to dispel any idea of food shortages, and to show us their self-reliance, so we left Pyongyang for a collective farm east of the city.
Farming, since the inception of man, has been important for us to sustain the fleshy vessel that we call the body.
And while the parents were working in the fields, their children were trotted out for songs and calisthenics, for yet another display for our benefit.
(SIMPLE MELODY PLAYING OVER PA) CHILDREN: Ha! However, after all this choreography, we had a few candid moments with our government minder, who having gotten to know us for a few days, opened up and shared with us more than we had ever heard from a North Korean about the realities of living under sanctions that the UN Security Council first imposed in 2006 after North Korea's first nuclear test, isolating its economy almost totally from global markets.
Because of sanctions, if you can't import anything, then you have to make everything domestically.
- So you have to do all your food - Mm-hmm.
energy, clothes, electronics, everything - Mm-hmm.
- has to be done in DPRK.
SMITH: What are the hardships that you have to go through because of the sanctions? (MUN JIN HYOK SPEAKING) SMITH: Have you noticed a change since President Trump, or no? The sanctions are worse? Oh, okay.
Right, so the purpose of the US sanctions is to make DPRK not exist.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- Okay.
And do a lot of people in DPRK feel the same way? That the sanctions are made to, to to stop the DPRK from existing? SMITH: But with so much change on the horizon, we wanted to find out how other people from Pyongyang really feel about the North and the South moving closer together.
So one of the only ways that you can actually get out on the street and talk to people in Pyongyang is to come here, to the metro.
So we want to talk to people about the summit between North and South, and does that affect relations or attitudes here in Pyongyang.
Nice to meet you.
I wanted to ask you what you thought about the summit between North Korea and South Korea.
(SPEAKING KOREAN) SMITH: And what do you think about the summit that happened between Marshal Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in Singapore? Do you think that's a good thing for American, DPRK relations? (SPEAKING KOREAN) SMITH: And do you think that's a good thing, that there's new relations between the DPRK and the USA? SMITH: Thank you.
How do you feel about the summit between North Korea and South Korea? (SPEAKING KOREAN) (PATRIOTIC MUSIC PLAYING) (CROWD CHEERING) SMITH: Now, at the so-called Glorious Country Mass Games, or mass gymnastics, the positive outlook and diplomatic signals continued.
We're here at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang.
They've just done a big show of mass gymnastics.
In the past, I've been here, it's been a lot more aggressive.
There's a lot of ICBM technology on display, but tonight they showed a lot of footage of the summit between the DPRK and Republic of Korea, which has never been done before, and also, they featured English, where they were talking about bilateral relations, and they featured Chinese, which is very rare.
It was basically a big message to China and a big message to America that we didn't show any weapons technology.
We talked about friendship and bilateral relations.
So it's very, very interesting, the messaging that was sent here tonight in Pyongyang.
By the end of our trip, it seemed to me that North Korea had indeed been profoundly changed by the progress made in 2018.
But political reality is always much more complicated.
So, we headed to Seoul, South Korea, a city which remains directly threatened every day, by Kim Jong Un's vast military arsenal.
As recently as 2017, there were high-level discussions about whether or not to do a preemptive strike against the DPRK.
That's how bad things had gotten.
Today, we are now demilitarizing the DMZ, there are summits between North and South Korea.
In fact, there are summits between America and DPRK, something that would be unthinkable before.
So we wanted to come to South Korea, talk to people on the ground, and see what the zeitgeist here in the South is, and if it matches that in the North.
(SPEAKING KOREAN) SMITH: Now, while this year has seen rapid progress, the work behind the scenes has been underway for decades.
Moon Chung-In, who has long advocated for engagement with the North, is the architect of the current South Korean president's official policy on the issue.
President Moon and Kim Jong Un have had three summits.
Is this the biggest year since hostilities ceased between North and South Korea in the history of the conflict? (KIM JONG UN SPEAKING KOREAN) (CHEERING) (PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN SPEAKING KOREAN) (CHEERING) (CHEERING) Do you think that denuclearization is actually attainable? I agree, but there's also the argument that you hear in North Korea of, look what happened to Muammar Gaddafi, he gave up his weapons of mass destruction, he was ousted.
So that there's a bit of fear.
SMITH: Yeah.
Yeah, there's a lot in the press anyways, in America of, we make an agreement to denuclearize, and then what happens is new things are being built or new testing is going on.
And, you know, we're being duped, or it's happening in secret.
SMITH: So, the demilitarization of the DMZ is the first step towards having a De facto unification, where you have an economic cooperation or military cooperation.
What's the worst-case scenario if things turn around? SMITH: That are open.
There's gonna be a high-stakes poker game played on the Korean Peninsula in 2019.
GIANNA TOBONI: This entire neighborhood has been leveled.
The fire has taken out every house here.
And now all of these Chico firefighters and search and rescue personnel are looking for bodies.
BRYAN GIBBONS: We have a list of people that have not been found by their family members, a lot of people who want closure.
So it's extremely important doing the job that we do.
We're working with fire departments and search and rescue from all over the state.
TOBONI: And what are your methods when you're out there, how do you do it? GIBBONS: You have a particular structure, which is almost everyone in this town that has burned to the ground.
You have so much heat that actually the bone fragments are exactly that, they're fragments, they're very small.
So you've got to be very precise.
That's where the dogs come in really handy.
And so have you discovered any human remains the last couple of days? We have discovered them, yes, unfortunately.
I mean, it's sad, because when you look at where they're located, I mean, every body, if you think about it, tells a story of what happened.
You can see a body could be close to an exit or down a hallway or wherever that location is you can kind of see their struggle to survive, and it's it's sad seeing that.
NEWSMAN: The evacuation area is getting bigger, so I urge people to pay attention.
If they are urged to evacuate, please do so.
TOBONI: This is the epicenter of the so-called "Camp Fire," the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in the state's history.
At least 80 people have died, and nearly 20,000 buildings are destroyed.
Cal Fire led more than 5,000 deployed firefighters on 24-hour shifts, with support from local departments and private contractors across the country.
JONATHAN PANGBURN: Hi, good morning.
Jonathan Pangburn, fire behavior analyst with Cal Fire Team 4.
It has been 211 days since this area last received half an inch of rain, 211 days.
I want to make sure we realize, it has jumped a 300-foot lake at least three times.
(MAN OVER RADIO) Fires are going later and are burning more intense later on in the year than they used to.
They're all kind of becoming, I hate to use the fancy term, "the new normal," but something's happening that's a little different.
It's You can see it.
- TOBONI: Holy shit! Yeah.
- Yeah, you can see it.
(HELICOPTER WHIRRING) TOBONI: The chopper's coming down to the river right here.
They're picking up 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of water and then they fly it right over here where the fire is spreading, dump all the water, come back here, and do it all over again.
They're basically just racing this fire, trying to put it out.
TOBONI: For somebody who's unfamiliar with the history of wildfires in California, and this one specifically, how destructive has this fire been? Since this is my home, it's a little difficult.
Uh, this has been the most destructive fire in California's recorded history.
During the course of this calendar year, over 1.
6 million acres has burned in the state of California.
So, we're getting a little tired of the records.
TOBONI: Why was this fire so destructive and so deadly? MCLEAN: Keep in mind, we had a drought, started way back in 2012.
It honestly has not stopped.
The embers that were cast by this fire were pushed well out ahead of this fire, and every ember landed and started a new fire.
So you had 50 to 60 mile-per-hour winds pushing this fire right off the get-go.
It started out, first site on it was 10 acres.
Football field lengths in a matter of seconds as far as travel time.
I heard 80 football fields in a minute.
That's crazy.
You can't outrun that.
Oh, no.
You're definitely You're not gonna make it.
(FIRE CRACKLING) TOBONI: Fifty-two thousand people were evacuated from surrounding areas, flooding nearby towns and cities, and hundreds landed in parking lots like this one.
We're walking through the Walmart parking lot right now in Chico.
We have domestic refugees here.
It's a really, kind of, strange thing to see in your own state.
Rudy Melashenko is a school bus driver who was finishing his shift when Paradise was evacuated.
It was a bus route from hell in Paradise is the way I've described it.
MAN (OVER RADIO): Leading north of highway 70 is mandatory evacuation zone.
MELASHENKO: This is the very beginning of the fires, okay? TOBONI: What's so striking about this, it says 9:11 a.
and it's pitch dark.
MELASHENKO: It's pitch dark.
Everything was so black, I couldn't even tell where I was, and I go this route every day.
That's right next to me.
Oh, my gosh.
TOBONI: You're in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the fire's right on the side of the road.
Did you think, I don't know, maybe you wouldn't make it? MELASHENKO: This one scared me.
TOBONI: Looks like a 100-foot tree on fire, right in front of you.
- Did you, could you feel the heat? - Oh, yeah.
MELASHENKO: Now I'm back at my bus yard, finally, and I see that this vehicle's starting to catch fire.
And right here are all the gas tanks for the buses.
I'm feeling like, this is not safe, I've got to get out of here.
Um, anyway, I could see the school starting to catch fire and stuff.
And, um I'm sorry.
Um, I didn't know what was going to happen then, but, um (IN VIDEO): Oh, no, that's where Bob Carley lives.
Oh, no! TOBONI: As the town evacuated, some cars ran out of gas, others were engulfed in flames.
So as residents tried to escape on the few roads out of Paradise, they got stuck.
WOMAN: Heavenly Father, please help us.
Please help us to be safe.
GIRL: Oh, my God.
TOBONI: With the fire mostly contained, one of the big questions for these residents now is, How did the fire start? While investigations take months, Cal Fire is examining electrical equipment operated by the largest utility company in the state: PG&E.
JOHN FISKE: You know this was someone's home.
Right? That's what is, uh lost in all of this.
Is that there was a home and a family and a life here.
TOBONI: John Fiske, who litigated against PG&E for damages in the 2017 wildfires, is already representing residents who are suing the company for the Camp Fire.
Do you have any indication of what caused this fire? We're starting to receive news reports that this fire may involve PG&E equipment.
And so, um, right now, we're looking at PG&E as a potential defendant, especially considering its track record.
California's largest utility is found guilty in a criminal trial from the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010.
NEWSWOMAN: PG&E has been ordered to pay citations totaling more than $8 million for safety violations tied to one of the most destructive wildfires in California history.
PG&E power lines are linked to at least two of the wine country wildfires.
In the last several years, PG&E has caused several very large-scale fires, going back to the San Bruno explosion, the Butte fire of 2015, the North Bay fires of 2017.
It seems like it's almost every year.
And so knowing that PG&E is a multi-billion dollar corporation, we look to see whether or not PG&E is putting those resources toward safety first.
We do know that PG&E has reported to the California Public Utilities Commission that there was a problem with one of its lines about 15 minutes prior to the start of the fire.
You've potentially got notice, and you failed to power down, and you failed to fix that equipment.
If it turns out that PG&E's equipment is the cause and origin of the fire, it's going to be a large, multi-billion dollar liability.
And when you see some of the most destructive fires, caused by utilities, it comes to a head in the political system.
TOBONI: Just before the Camp Fire, the state legislature heard arguments over who should pay the billions in damages caused by downed power lines in the 2017 Napa Sonoma fires.
The state utility regulator, Governor Brown, and PG&E argued that because climate change has increased the risk and severity of wildfires, utilities should no longer be held strictly liable, and should only be responsible for damages when a fire is caused by their negligence or wrongdoing.
The severity of the danger is only heightened by climate change with storms of increasing frequency that can topple poles and snap power lines.
And you're arguing that maybe it's not climate change that's causing the risk.
The way PG&E has designed its infrastructure, causes the spark.
Climate change may exacerbate the situation, it's all the more reason why we need to be protective of homeowners, and ask these companies to ask themselves, is our system designed and used in a way that reduces that risk.
TOBONI: That's what residents like Terry Woolcox are asking.
The day before the fire, PG&E sent out emergency fliers, warning residents that they might cut power due to high-risk fire conditions.
It says, "Important Notice.
Emergency may shut off for safety.
" That was on our door that afternoon when we came home.
And the fire started at 6:30 the next morning.
It says, "Please take steps now "to ready for your emergency plan.
"To protect the public safety, we may need "to temporarily turn off electricity in your neighborhood.
" - TOBONI: So then, did they turn off the power? - WOOLCOX: No.
WOOLCOX: I know how these power lines are and there's ones that are weak, or whatever.
Once those two top lines, or 30,000 volts, hit together, boom, it blows the transformer.
Throws sparks.
It's like lightening or something.
They should have shut off their power.
TOBONI: PG&E declined an interview, but reminded us that the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and said they're focused on supporting residents at this time.
While they haven't been held responsible, there is a growing distrust of the company among many consumers.
But if they are found responsible, the solution isn't as simple as them just coughing up billions of dollars.
Michael Wara is a leading expert on climate and energy policy at Stanford University.
We won't know if PG&E is held responsible for this Camp Fire for probably several months.
If they are, can they afford it? If PG&E is responsible for this fire, the company is likely to have to seek bankruptcy protection.
Not so much a question anymore of whether PG&E could pay for what happened last year, or what happened last week.
It's a question of whether investors want to invest money in a company that could generate the same kind of loss next year, and the year after, and the year after that.
We have a situation where the world is creating a context in which the utilities can't make money, unless we fix the problem.
The drought that occurred over the last decade was something like a one-in-a-thousand-year event, so we have dead trees all over the landscape.
When a utility line causes a fire, and you add climate change on top of that, instead of being a fire that can be managed, and put out, and contained, it turns into something that very quickly spins out of control.
I do think that we need to really be reexamining, kind of, how the system is designed and operated in a pretty radical way.
What would those improvements be? Well, imagine a world in which the homes in wildfire country had a solar panel on their roof and a battery in their garage such that when PG&E even felt the slightest desire to turn the power off, it could, and there would be no impact on customers.
Part of the dynamic that occurred in Paradise was that PG&E thought about turning off the power, but didn't.
I think the idea that we're going to get to some level of perfection that's acceptable, using the traditional approaches of like, trimming the trees better and inspecting the lines more, is just not credible, because the situation we're up against in terms of risk is just too extreme.
The consequences for one mistake are too large.
NEWSWOMAN: Evacuees are being allowed to go back to Paradise for the first time after the Camp Fire.
Many are returning to nothing, as flames decimated the entire town.
NEWSWOMAN 2: The state's insurance commissioner says the losses are staggering.
(CHAINSAW RUMBLING) TONY MATA: Man, I just You think you're prepared to see something, but you just (SIGHS) (VOICE BREAKING): Too many memories.
Just Growing up in such a beautiful area.
Oh, my God.
MATA (CRYING): Watching the kids play here In the blink of an eye, it's all gone.
(SNIFFLES) I don't I'm trying to get a context.
It's hard for me to 'Cause that was the driveway, and we always went in the back.
Oh, so that probably led up to the house.
So this is probably (SNIFFLING) WARA: What we've been doing for the last three or four decades as the population of California has gone from 25 million people to now we're at close to 40 million people, we've put that extra increment of population into places that maybe weren't safe.
The home insurers are going to start to feel that they don't want to insure homes in wildfire country.
I think the average person is going to have to make some different choices about where they live, and probably not live you know, in places like Paradise.
Are you going to rebuild? No.
I've never owned a place.
So I got to own a place for, um a year.
This place is the loss of the world, you know.
I wish you could have been here before.
Because it was an oasis.