Skip to main content
Home World U.S. Weather Business Sports Analysis Politics Law Tech Science Health Entertainment Offbeat Travel Education Specials Autos I-Reports
EDUCATION with Student News

CNN Presents Classroom: Undercover in the Secret State

Adjust font size:
Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font

(CNN Student News) -- Set your VCR to record the CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Undercover in the Secret State when it airs commercial-free on Monday, October 16, 2006, from 4:00 -- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN. (A short feature begins at 4:00 a.m. and precedes the program.)

Program Overview

CNN Presents: Undercover in the Secret State follows Korean-American journalist Jung Eun Kim as she tracks down a new breed of dissident in North Korea. These dissidents are using small digital cameras and cell phones to show the world the brutal life inside North Korea.

Warning to Educators: This report includes scenes of violence and images that might be objectionable for your classroom. Please preview before showing to students.

Grade Level: 11-12, college

Subject Areas: U.S. History, World History, Current Events, Political Science, Government

Objectives: The CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Undercover in the Secret State and its corresponding discussion questions and activities challenge students to:

  • Examine present conditions in North Korea through the lenses of dissidents, refugees and journalists;
  • Explore the role of technology in "breaking down walls" in the 21st century;
  • Analyze options for addressing the potential threats posed by North Korea;
  • Assess to what extent, if any, human rights issues should factor into political policies.
  • Curriculum Connections

    United States History

    Standard 27. Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics Level IV [Grade 9-12]

  • Benchmark 1. Understands U.S. foreign policy from the Truman administration to the Johnson administration Standard 30. Understands developments in foreign policy and domestic politics between the Nixon and Clinton presidencies Level IV [Grade 9-12]
  • Benchmark 5. Understands the influence of U.S. foreign policy on international events from Nixon to Clinton
  • World History

    Standard 44. Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world Level IV [Grade 9-12]

  • Benchmark 11. Understands common arguments of opposition groups in various countries around the world, common solutions they offer, and the position of these ideas with regard to Western economic and strategic interests
  • Civics

    Standard 22. Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another, and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy Level IV [Grade 9-12]

  • Benchmark 3. Understands the major foreign policy positions that have characterized the United States' relations with the world
  • Benchmark 5. Understands the process by which United States foreign policy is made, including the roles of federal agencies, domestic interest groups, the media, and the public; and knows the ways in which Americans can influence foreign policy
  • Benchmark 9. Understands the current role of the United States in peacemaking and peacekeeping
  • Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) ( link), 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014; Telephone: 303/337-0990.

    Discussion Questions

    1. Where is North Korea located? Based on what you saw in this report, how would you describe life in North Korea? Historically, why has it been so difficult to know what life is like inside this country? What aspects of life inside North Korea did "Mr. Park" and "Mr. Lee" document? What impact, if any, do you think that the publicity of these images might have on the future of North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Il? Explain.

    2. What is a dissident? What underground system was established to aid dissidents from North Korea? How does this system compare with other underground movements throughout history? Who is Jung Eun Kim? As a journalist, what stories does she hope to tell? What do you think motivates people like Jung Eun Kim, activists like "Mr. Park" and "Mr. Lee" and those who assist them to risk their lives to tell the outside world about life inside North Korea? Do you consider their efforts to be heroic? Explain.

    3. What does CNN reporter Frank Sesno mean when he says that, "North Korea is the last Stalinist regime, a closed one-party state founded on a personality cult"? According to the report, how does Kim Jong Il maintain his regime? Why do you think that the executions of political dissidents are public events? Why are foreign movies, such as South Korean soap operas, a threat to Kim Jong Il's rule? Why do you think that Kim Jong Il would want to curtail information from leaving or entering his country?

    4. What types of technologies did North Korean dissidents use to document life in North Korea? To what extent have technologies such as videos, cell phones and digital cameras become "powerful new weapons of the dissidents"? How might these technologies help to "crack the walls of secrecy" in North Korea? Are there any drawbacks to the emergence of these technologies? How might the same technologies used by political activists be used by repressive regimes? Explain.

    5. What methods or tools can activists use to bring about political, economic or social change? How does the use of video and technologies presented in this report compare with other resistance methods in terms of process and potential impact?

    6. What role, if any, do you think that the international community should play in North Korea's internal affairs? What options, if any, do the U.S., the U.N., human rights organizations and individuals have to address reports of human rights violations in North Korea? How do you think that the U.N. or the U.S. should address North Korean dissidents like "Mr. Park"? State your rationale.

    Suggested Activities

    "The Weapon at Hand"

    Discuss the meaning of the word "dissident." Based on the students' understanding of the term, have them list famous political dissidents in recent history. For example, students may consider those who fought against repressive regimes in the 20th century, such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Vaclav Havel in the Soviet-bloc during the Cold War, Harry Wu or Wei Jingsheng in China, Mahatma Ghandi in India or Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

    Working as individuals or in pairs, have students choose one dissident from the list and explore his or her goals and methods for bringing about change. As students conduct research on their chosen subjects, have them address the following questions:

  • How would you describe the setting in which this person lived? What was the time period? Where did the person live? What was life like for this person?
  • With what established social, political, religious or economic systems did the person disagree?
  • What were this person's goals and objectives?
  • What motivated this person to take action?
  • What methods did this person use to try to accomplish his or her objectives? What was this person's "weapon at hand"?
  • What support or opposition did this person face?
  • What successes or failures did this person experience?
  • Did this person bring about a change in the established system? Explain.
  • As students share their findings with the class, have them compare the goals, objectives and methods of their subjects with those who were featured in Undercover in the Secret State. Ask: What are some of the ways that dissidents can bring about change? What tools do dissidents have today that did not exist for the dissidents referred to in the presentations? To what extent, if at all, has political activism changed as a result of the emergence of technologies such as digital cameras, DVDs, cell phones and the Internet? How do methods that use technology to bring about change compare with those used by dissidents during the Cold War? How effective do you think that technology, as the "weapon at hand," may be at "breaking down walls" in the 21st century?

    As a wrap-up to the activity, list the technologies used by the North Korean dissidents featured in the CNN report, and have the students brainstorm as many uses as they can for how each technology (such as a cell phone) can be used as a "weapon." Discuss to what extent emerging technologies may impact future political movements around the globe.

    Human Rights and Foreign Policy

    Have students discuss what they know about North Korea. Ask: What words, images, historical events or people do you associate with North Korea? Based on what you saw in the report, what questions do you have about North Korea? List students' questions and then categorize them into the following broad categories:

  • History of North Korea
  • Facts about North Korea
  • Kim Jong Il
  • Nuclear weapons
  • U.S. relations with North Korea
  • Six-nation talks
  • Organize students into small groups and assign each group one of the topics above to research.

    After the groups present their findings on North Korea, have students assume the role of U.S. policy makers who must decide on a course of action with respect to North Korea. Explain that, according to U.S. think tanks and policy analysts, there are four ways of dealing with the nuclear deadlock:

  • Provide aid and security only if North Korea dismantles its nuclear program. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton tried this approach in 1994. That pact collapsed after North Korea violated the deal and pocketed handouts, blaming Washington for not fulfilling its obligations.
  • Military strike. This could trigger a full-scale war, with missile attacks, radioactive fallout, economic turmoil and massive refugee flows. U.S. troops in Japan and South Korea could become nuclear hostages.
  • Starve Kim Jong Il's regime of money, issuing sanctions and embargoes on the grounds North Korea is an outlaw of the nonproliferation treaty. Block the country's hard cash from illicit trade and cut off food aid. This is likely to worsen a massive humanitarian crisis in an economically isolated nation.
  • Put up with a nuclear-armed North Korea and accept Pyongyang may export weapons. This could spark an arms race if South Korea, Japan and Taiwan became nuclear powers to defend themselves. Interdict suspected illegal goods through the 11-nation Proliferation Security Initiative, set up in May by Washington to allow the U.S. and its allies to search planes and ships.
  • (Source:

    As a class, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Applying what they learned about North Korea, have students propose which option(s) they would recommend.

    Then, based on what they learned in Undercover in the Secret State, ask the students to consider what role, if any, the internal affairs of North Korea should play in U.S. foreign policy decisions. Ask: Should the U.S. and the international community address the human rights violations in North Korea within the context of the nuclear negotiations? If so, how? If not, what, if anything, should the U.S. or the international community do to address reports of human rights violations in North Korea or in any other totalitarian regime? State your rationale.


    North Korea, Kim Jong Il, Stalinist, regime, one-party state, personality cult, rogue, dictatorship, famine, dissident, Jung Eun Kim, totalitarian, technology, defector, Freedom Youth League, United Nations, World Food Program, concentration camp, Great Famine, UNHCR




    Quick Job Search
      More Options
    International Edition
    CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise with Us About Us Contact Us
    © 2007 Cable News Network.
    A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
    SERVICES » E-mails RSSRSS Feed PodcastsRadio News Icon CNNtoGo CNN Pipeline
    Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
    Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more