Despite North Korea being a secretive and largely isolated country, and also one of the least visited countries in the world, photos have regularly been published in the media. I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in the countryside and in sites that are less visited by tourists to snap some pictures of North Korea.
Thanks to the flexibility of a private, two-people, tailor-made tour, I could make the most of my time in the country and was allowed to take photos almost without censure.
These are some of the best shots.
A day at the beach on Nampo Islet. Families and friends having fun, posing for photos and enjoying the cooling water. Swimming suits were all in the same fashion, same style, same cut, same colors. North Koreans don’t know how to swim so floatation devices were necessary.
The journey through the DMZ and into the Armistice Rooms and Museums is escorted by an armed soldier wearing a helmet. We drove in our cars on the only road that connects North Korea to the central joint area.
In front of the Party’s building in Kaesong were these hand-written graphs showing each of the factories and their production outputs.
Billboards like this one are common and the only dashes of colors in an otherwise green and grey city.
Despite North Korea is a socialist non-consumerist society, stalls selling snacks and street food like these ones are regulated and pervasive across Pyongyang. Looking much like stalls across Southeast Asia, locals stood or sat in the tiny plastic chairs to enjoy small pieces of rice rolls, buns or biscuits.
Newspapers are not commonplace and the internet does not exist so locals get the latest news at the metro stations through these newspaper pages on display.
One of the world’s largest libraries, this one is home to 30 million books. Aside from being a place to consult books the library also offers lectures, computer learning courses and English lessons. Kim Il Sun greeted us at the entrance.
Mansundae Grand Monument – Not exactly a never-seen-before shot but still the most important of monuments showcasing the Japanese struggle and the birth of socialism at either side of the Leaders.
The most controversial wall in the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall is this concrete wall the North claims the South and the US have built along the 240km border between the two countries. I was taken to see the wall through a telescope 40km from Kaesong and the DMZ. The West claims the walls is a propagandistic fabrication. The Colonel who gave us the tour looked visibly saddened by the physical division between the two countries.
No doubt this has been the most war-focused trip I have ever been on but it peaked as I visited the Victorious War Museum. Cameras are not allowed inside but, at the entrance to the large complex, North Korea showcases all the enemy weapons they have captured, displayed with the photos of the soldiers captured too.
Rehearsals for 2015 Liberation Day were underway while we were there. Hundreds of children dressed in Young Pioneer uniforms were preparing large human mosaics.
The countryside outside of Pyongyang was green and lush. Several streams and rivers cut through the farm lands and villages.
In the old Korean dynasties, slaves were common. This graph showed the value of each type of slave. Cows were the most valuable assets, they probably still are today seen the lack of mechanization in the fields.
Mosaic at the Metro celebrates the end of the Japanese struggle.
At a park, as we were taking a walk, I got pulled into a pagoda where a group of locals were singing and playing music. I learned the moves with this lady who was holding my arms.
In the field, the lack of mechanization and limited number of ox-carts meant that work was mostly manual.
Cars are a rarity. Owned only by companies and businesses, they are not very commonly seen int he streets. To most Koreans, the reality of sharing the roads with a car is strange and we saw them constantly underestimating the speed at which cars traveled, ending up stuck in the middle of the road trying to cross.
Not everything is work and no fun. My last night was spent at the fun fair.
Only very recently opened to the public, the Koguryo Tombs are a great example of milenial architecture and art.
Only on the last day were we allowed to take shots at night. We stole this one sneakily as the children were continuing with their rehearsals. It was almost 10pm when I took this one.
From our hotel room we had a view of the city’s skyline and this stall on the ground floor which was always busy. I discovered they were selling shaved ice.
North Korean countryside life is simple. People take a break under a tree, ride bicycles and enjoy the refreshing waters of a stream in the heat of the day. This was taken somewhere between Kaesong and the Concrete Wall.
The sky over Pyongyang was often hazy. We got up every morning without being able to see beyond the first couple of buildings. For a country so backwards and with so few cars and factories this remained a mystery. Until we saw the large coal factory in the middle of the city breathing the smoke that probably caused the haze.
The stamp shop also sold propagandistic posters mostly aimed at showing the hatred towards the US. I was not supposed to take photos in it but the reality was so fascinating I tried to sneak one out. The posters show American soldiers being stabbed, a missile being dropped on the White House and alike. All, for sale.
Bicycles are the only mode of transport across the country. They are used to get places and to bring farm produce to market.
I thought these were propagandistic messages but they were posters for movies shown at the cinema.
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