North Korea or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is anything but democratic. Though its rulers describe the country as self-sufficient, prosperous and well-governed, the stark reality is unsavory. Run by propaganda and controlled awareness about the rest of the world, North Korea has become a place of interest for many tourists and political enthusiasts. Here are some photographs of North Korea taken by two photographers, Michael Huniewicz, who traveled to the country through China, and Eric Lafforgue, who was banned from ever visiting again.
1. The scene that greets the tourists upon their arrival in Pyongyang. A group of men and women who appear to be walking in a hurry so that the station doesn’t look empty. The train in which Huniewicz arrived was the only train that day.
2. A view of Pyongyang from Yanggakdo Hotel where non-Chinese tourists stay. Chinese tourists have relatively more freedom and are allowed to walk around the block or cross the street on their own, without a guide.
3. According to Huniewicz, the guides are usually inclined to show the tourists the glamorous parts of the city, such as these large buildings, and speed up the tour vehicle when they are in less impressive areas.
4. Photographers are forbidden to take pictures of North Korean citizens if they are not well-dressed. This man carrying a cylinder on his back was not dressed well enough according to Lafforgue’s guide.
5. Here is a picture of soldiers having a cigarette and having a relaxed moment, again something that isn’t allowed to be photographed.
6. Lafforgue explains that guides strongly encourage visitors to take photographs when visiting families where the kids have computers, even though, as in the image shown here, there is no electricity in the home.
7. A policeman watches as two women clean up the road.
8. Workers carrying something on their shoulders across a bridge.
9. A man using an old tyre as a boat for fishing. Fishing in small lakes in the countryside is a way for those living in remote areas to get fresh food.
10. Many soldiers of the North Korean army can often be seen performing menial tasks, though the army is said to be the most important in the world. This one was probably helping in a farm.
11. A side of the capital city that the authorities try to hide.
12. That’s a queue of people waiting to get on to a bus and go to work.
13. Many people use bicycles to travel long distances and tired people are a common sight. These two were probably getting some rest before starting again.
14. Two children collecting loose corn in Begaebong streets. Taking pictures of malnourished people and poverty is forbidden in the country.
15. Showing poverty is forbidden, but then display of wealth is frowned upon too. Lefforgue found this car belonging to one of Pyongyang’s elite who were having a BBQ in a park on a Sunday afternoon.
16. The subway in Pyongyang is considered the deepest in the world as it also doubles as a bomb shelter. Someone saw Lefforgue taking the picture and told him to delete it because it included the tunnel.
17. A picture seen very often in the west with a caption saying North Koreans eat grass, something the guides don’t allow you to see or take pictures of.
18. The roads so free of traffic, they are as good as empty.
19. A shop that tourists aren’t usually allowed into. Huniewicz managed to sneak in for ten seconds and take this picture before his guide took him out. According to Huniewicz, the guide probably didn’t see him taking those pictures.
20. The delphinium in Pyongyang where you are only allowed to take pictures of the dolphins, but not the soldiers, who apparently constitute the majority of viewers.
21. A man having a bath in a river near his town.
22. Though there are strict bans on black market, the “grey market”, according to Huniewicz, is very common. You often can see people selling cigarettes or sweets for a little extra money.
23. Though cars are becoming common in Pyongyang, the local people there are still getting used to seeing them on the roads.
24. Public transportation in North Korea is almost non-existent and the people there actually need permit to go from one place to another. Sometimes you can come across soldiers hitchhiking on the highways.
25. They aren’t playing around in that photograph. They are construction workers at work. The safety standards are extremely low in the country.