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Article: Photos From Inside North Korea


Some pictures of a place rarely seen by American eyes.

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The autor is Artemii Lebedev, one of the leading web-designers in Russia. He recently went on a trip to DPRK. I’ll translate his comments briefly.

On your arrival at the airport you need to leave your cellphone, no roaming service is avaliable but if you select an operator manually you get PRK 03 although he never saw a single person with a cell-phone. Laptops are allowed it seems that north koreans are not aware of cards that can make your laptop to work like a cellphone.

The only house where a foreigner will be ever allowed on his visit. It’s a model-house of a model-farmworker of a model-collective farm. There is even something that looks like a computer made of components that are not even plugged together. Internet does not exist, only intranet is avalaible.

On your arrival you will be assigned to a guide and a driver. That will constantly follow you. You can’t leave the hotel on your own. The daily program consists of 2-3 visits to a landmark. In the hotel you can watch BBC,NTV (russian chan),and a couple of chinese channels, so you can’t really complain about freedom of speech. The food is good, and you can’t complain about that either. In a park he saw elder women picking up herbs, the guide said that it was for the rabbits, although it was clear that it was the kind of herb that the “owners of the rabbits” could eat.

Kiosk that sells foreign product to tourists, as in snickers chinese sprite and lays from 2001. You have to chose your product pay at a sepate booth get a checkstub and give it to the merchant to get your purchase.

Kiosk for locals, most of the time they sell lemonade, forigers are given a plastic cup, locals get porcelain mugs, that are washed in a bucket of water after use.

Sometimes you see people selling some kind of a vegetable, that was taken next to a fruits and veggies store, they immediatly closed the door as they saw a tourist.

North Koreans are always amazed when they see a white man.

The plaster statues are clean and not broken apart. North Korea is a perfect reproduction of the year 1950.
They still havent figured out how to make flat glass withtout bubbles, the only exception are the windows in the hotel or large vitrines.

Oil is almost inexistant, so most of the labor is manual.


Water seems not to be avaliable everywhere when you leave the capital. A woman is washing her clothes in the river.

Life in a village

When building in a city they tend to block the old houses with tall bulidings , if that is not possible they put a concrete fence so you would only see the roof.
As soon as you try to take a picture different from the magazine “Korea” the guide will say: “why are you taking a picture” “it’s forbidden here”


The big monument, (they cut off the electricity at 11)

The city at night is scary, there is no light on the streets and people use white lights and no curtains.

during the day the elevator didn’t work for 15 mins

View from the monument, besides the pretty view you can also see the dead birds.

Reality of the NK, a forigner will not see this generally.

The whole Pyongyang is like this, when he asked the guide about the old houses the guide said that old people didn’t want to move out in the new ones and like it that way


The mausoleum

You have to button up your shirt and look serious, and leave eveything except your sunglasses at the entrance, you will have to go trough an x-ray scanner (which no one tells you about), and for some reason there is a wi-fi router. The statue is white, and the light on top is blue and on the bottom is red. And its called a “visit” because the Great Leader is still “alive”

About 10% of the population serves in the military, its impossible not to cross soldiers.

They do everything, taking care of the cattle, picking up wood, and ride 40 persons in a truck

As a form of entertainement both Koreas will take you to a visit to the border. One mystery remains, how come under capitalism the roads are good and under communism crappy

Sand is where NK is.

The road is prepared for an invasion, the big cubes can be pushed on the road to trap the enemy tanks.

Just in case they put those things up on every road in the radius of 50km from the border, they are often decorated.

They also have those in the mountains.

A NK beach, electrified barbed-wire so the NK citiziens wouln’t swim away, of couse you’re not allowed to take that picture.

NK love to show off military trophees, like the american spy ship Pueblo.

Pieces of US aicraft in a museum, that are gathered up with a lot of love.

NK defends itself not only from imperialist agressors, every neiborhood is defended. Once by a coincidence, he took a picture of that buliding with AC on every window. Of couse he was told that he’s not allowd to take the picture. Apperently this is not an ordinary house, maybe scientists live there.

On may 1st, the tourists got to see a concert and taekwondo students so everyone would know that the new replacement is growing up.
Next , visual culture.


The only ads in NK, an advertisment for a car (made in cooperation with the South) that you will only see in the capital, there are 3 different banners/models.

A composition showing the heroism of the workers, its a rather unique piece since the military is on the 2nd plan.

Banners with Kim Il Song , who calls up people for heroic acts. For some reason commarade Kim is young.

You can often see pictures of Kim Jon Suk (wife of Kim Il Song) Like his composition is called “Comarade Kim Jon Suk is saving Kim Il Song), but Kim Il Song is shown even more often

Bronze is often used in the monument, here you can see the worker, the farmworker and the intellectual.

One of the 2 compositions next to Kim Il Song monument.

In every place you will have a Pole with a citation of the great leader.

LOL

Fancy garbage cans in parks.

NK like to customize their number ,as you can see with the 40

Every citizen has a pin of Kim Il Song, except for little children, waiters (the pin is probably hidden by work clothes), and Kim Il Song himself
You cannot buy this pin.

This means, shoe repairs upstairs.

That means that a food joint is near, by the way even in China they draw a fork.

You can see this on the doors, the X means entrance forbidden, and the thingy taht looks like a target means enter here.

In a model pioneer palace, a concert is shown, at the end a picture of Kim Jong Il is shown, the forigners are in extasy.
Next up we have roads and transporation.

Ok, so we carry on.

Entrances to the subways look somewhat shabby.

Inside you have the tourniquets that arrive you to the knee, contrary to chinese Koreans are of short stature. The sign reads: Kim Jong IL – the Sun of 21st century!

The escalator is very long, and the lighting is original.

Trains are made of 4 wagons, the doors are opened by hand and closed automatically.

It seems that the goal of the NK architects was to make stations more impressive that Moscow’s metro.

The particularity of the cities is the lack of cars. Everyone is walking, sometimes they take packed public transportatins made of tramways, trolleys and even 2 storie buses. The bicycles are rare and expensive.
The pedestrian zebra is original.

In Pyongyang there is a lot of underground passages for crossing the street, everyone respects the rules, if you cross the street where you’re not supposed to you get a fine, even if the road usually looks like this.

Traffic signs warn you of other traffic signs.

The drivers never stop in front of pedestrians, they constantly honk. The guide coulnt not explain the lack of reflex of the pedetrians when they hear a car. In the countryside people walk wherever they want, like there is no cars at all.


The drivers on the other hand never chek their mirrors or look back. For some reason the gas stations are covered up and passangers must exit the car before the driver goes to the gas station.

Drive safe!

Line at the bus stop, people who take the bus are those who have to walk more than 30 mins toget home
You can’t move freely in NK, you need authorisations, and you have check-points everywhere. When the car crossed teh check point, the driver flashed the lights, perhaps its a meaning that a forigner is on board.

Traffic lights exist but they dont work.


How cars in NK look like.

The sign is not lying

A common sight, broken down gas-fueled truck, they drive slow and make a lot of smoke. You’re not supposed to take that picture.

Sometimes you see japanese or german cars. Koreans love Mercedes Benz, which they only know as Benz. Benz – is the favorite car of NK leaders. In Kim Il song mausoleum , his SEL 500 is parked forever on some porcelain supports. Maybe the love for benz will explain the following pictures

Benz!

playgrounds.

And put a room full of old consoles in the model pioneer palace (in which the escalator was turned on when the forigners arrived)


Village where Kim Il Song, spend a night during his youth.


And thats another village, but those houses don’t exist in NK, the driver took a wrong turn.

Sometimes you get to see a martian landscape

Beaches of NK

Sign of service

Culture house of a model collective farm

Another culture house

Somewhere

The hotel, construction was abandoned in 1991, its not recomended to take pictures of it when you’re close.

That’s ok we’ll admire it from far.

Koreans have the habit to walk with their hands behind their back, men rarely wear light and flashy colors. Thats an excusion to the cemetary of the revolutionaries

Apartment buildings are modest too.

A rare view of Pyongyang.

5.1 means May 1st, they don’t do big celebrations.

All the forigners got to visit the main park, locals were denied admission

Those who were smarter didn’t go to the park and instead relaxed by the river.



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  1. August 27, 2011 at 5:25 AM

    Great images, we just got back from the DPRK and it was an interesting experience. Have you found or do you have any photos from inside the mausoleum? That was one of the most amazing/strangest places we’ve ever been.

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