Americans interacting with North Koreans at the subway

(Also check out my entire photo-essay at North Korea Uncloaked)

In North Korea, they kept us busy. From 7 AM until 5 PM we were shuttled to locations across Pyongyang, from monuments and museums to long expeditions across the countryside to distant cities. One of the first of many destinations in the country was the Pyongyang metro station.

We were told that this is one of the few occasions when a western tourist is in such close proximity to North Koreans, who are normally isolated from outsiders. For years, rumors have persisted that it’s almost impossible to interact with North Korean locals, and few people have ever done it.

What we found is that either our particular tour guides were exceptionally cool, or this is something of a myth. Aside from the metro station, we had plenty of other opportunities to meet the residents of the forbidden kingdom; from playing Frisbee along the docks of Wonsan to taking photos with entire schools of Korean kids.

Many of these people may have never seen westerners before. They are told from birth that Americans are the source of their woes, and the government discourages locals who are not authorized to greet foreigners. However, it’s easy to bring North Koreans out of this initial apprehension through being a bit enthusiastic and fun. They respond very well to playfulness, and you can quickly instigate huge groups of people to hang-out, play games, high-five and snap photos.

Support my work chronicling North Korea and other places in the world by becoming a citizen photo-journalist yourself and purchasing a Canon Rebel t3i from my affiliate store below, and I’ll make a tiny percentage of the sale. Buying a good DSLR was one of the best purchase decisions in my life. Even with a cheap lens, I still produce great images on the t3i because this professional grade camera has such a good sensor.

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