Diane Sawyer Answers Your Questions!

ByABC News
December 6, 2006, 10:36 PM

Dec. 7, 2006 — -- As the only Western journalist allowed in North Korea in October, Diane Sawyer got a rare glimpse at what life was like in the "Hermit Nation."

Viewers had many questions for Sawyer about her trip.

Lisa asked, "Did you ever feel that people on the streets rehearsed before you got there? Did it ever seem like 'random' people on the streets knew you were coming to watch and ask questions?"

Sawyer: Two answers: First, we were in Pyongyang, the "model city," the capital. The elite of North Korea live there. It was pretty certain that everyone we met would have already demonstrated loyalty to North Korea. Second, we didn't feel that the people on the street that we talked to were "planted" for us -- we did approach them pretty randomly. But it was eerie that nobody, in our entire 12-day trip, stepped out of line in anyway to criticize the regime. As for the official visits -- to the schools, the museums, the movie studio -- they clearly had particular people there that they wanted us to meet.

Khangai from Chicago wrote, " When you have visited N. Korea and reported from there, behind you there was a banner in KoreanDo you know what [it] is saying on that banner? Thank you!"

Sawyer: Our translator tells us the writing on the monument says: "Long Live Great Leader, Comrade Kim Jong Il." The location was in front of the North Korean television center.

Linda Lee from Joplin, Mo. wrote, "My daughter lives in South Korea, as she is married to a fine young man who is an Army helicopter pilot. She is pregnant, has lived there for 2 years, and now may be staying another year. After being in North Korea -- do you feel that Americans such as my daughter are safe living so close to North Korea?"

Sawyer: It's anyone's guess, unfortunately. But the North Korean officials who sat down with us said that they see their nuclear program as deterrent rather than aggressive; they seem to believe that having nuclear capability means that they won't be invaded. The North Korean missile program has been a point of concern in South Korea for a long time, and the tension has certainly ramped up in that part of the world since we were there.

Steve Potts from Hibbing, Minn., asked, "As a college teacher (history & political science), I'm curious about North Korea's higher education system. How much chance do their students have to learn about the outside world? Do they have Internet and e-mail access? Do they know anything substantial (other than Kim Jong Il's propaganda) about the United States? Thanks for your attention to this little-known corner of the globe. We're looking forward to your program!"

And Linda Bottaro from Myrtle Beach, S.C., asked, "Do you think that young men and women in North Korea have a real grasp on how things are outside of their country, in comparison to how they live and receive information? Are they at least free to express their desires for the future, which will be their own generation?"

Sawyer: Two of you had questions about what young people and students know about the outside world.

It seemed to us that the concrete around the sealed world of North Korea is almost impenetrable. When I asked students in an English class what "democracy" meant, their only answer was "the noun that goes with democratic."

It's illegal to listen to radio from outside the country. There are only three government-controlled TV stations, and the newspapers are filled with articles praising the "dear leader" and his policies. Where else can they get any information?

In every closed society I've ever visited as a journalist, someone would take me aside and ask a furtive question about an American movie star. Not here. They claimed not to recognize any celebrity in the magazines we showed them. The students said they'd never seen an American movie. But surprise: They had seen "Toy Story" and "Shrek" -- they just didn't know they came from their great enemy, the United States.

Emily Graves from Griffin, Ga., asked, "Traveling throughout North Korea, what did you notice about both women and teenagers? Are women permitted to work? Are teenagers in North Korea all as smart and driven as many say? What do you think drives the North Korean society to do what they do; run everyday life; work; rule; etc?"