During August I spent 10 days in the Hermit Kingdom that is North Korea. I'm a firm believer that pictures speak better than words, so here are some photographs from my tour of the country, whose citizens have 'Nothing to Envy'.
A lone child sits in a field next to his goat in the North Korean countryside.
A shot of Pyongyang at night. The bright part is Kim Il Sung square, where there are often military parades.
An apartment building that they forgot to finish before letting people move in. Note the woman top and centre. People in North Korea are assigned a home by the government, but they aren't promised any sort of luxery.
A man runs across the main road leading through Kim Il Sung Square, on videos of military processions this is the road which has thousands of soldiers goose stepping, and marching alongside tanks. But on a normal day, it's virtually silent as there are so few cars in the city.
A North Korean child looks up at me with confusion.
A Pyongyang commuter looks down a metro carraige, away from the ever present stare of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-Il. This train was specially arranged for us and the carraige was completely empty when it arrived at the station for us. Note that the next carraige doesn't have Kim portraits.
A group of female North Korean soldiers look into a baboon enclosure at Pyongyang central zoo.
A group of men sit on the steps of the Taedong river, opposite the tower to the Juche Ideology, which is less than a metre taller than the Washington Monument. True story, there is a gift shop in the base of the tower in which you can buy idelogical books, traditional North Korean gifts and Coca Cola. Apparently the irony that having one of the biggest capitalist products in the world for sale in a tower devoted to praising a 'Self-reliant North Korea' was lost on them.
Soldiers from both North and South Korea patrol the DMZ at Panmunjom, two days after the two countries exchanged artillery fire. Visitors are normally permitted to go inside the left blue U.N building and technically cross to the other Korea by crossing the DMZ, but South Korean soldiers locked us out.
A group of nursery children look out of a window at western tourists. We had just spent 15 minutes watch these children sing revolutionary songs in the nursery's Kim Jong-Il room - A dark room with walls painted to look like Mt Paektu (Where Kim Jong-Il was born, according to North Koreans, but not according to facts), These children had been brought in specially for us as it was the summer holidays.
A group of North Korean teenagers relax in Moranbang Hill in Pyongyang on August 15th, otherwise known as Korean Liberation Day. It is the only public holiday that both the North and South share, and it commerates the peninsula's liberation from the Japanese after World War II. This photograph is one of my favourite from the trip, as it surprised me most for many reasons
- -The fact only one of the girls is wearing a Kim Il Sung badge, a rare occasion in North Korea,
- -The clothes they are wearing are bright and colourful, not like the usual dull tones of North Korean fashion.
- -The mobile phones, camcorders and cameras being used by the girls is a VERY rare sight in the DPRK, where consumer technology is sparse.
- -The peace face two of them are pulling is the same face that 99% of Asian teenagers pull for photos, the fact that they know this means that some culture is seeping in. Maybe just for the top end of this closed country, but it's a start.
The last group of shots are from the
Arirang Mass Games. The most amazing performance I've ever seen- Just imagine the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, but better.