North Korea Photos: Living and Working in the Urban Centers

These North Korea photos were taken around April, 2013. Those in urban city centers enjoy a higher standard of living than others. Most go home to large residential developments and condominiums; often with limited water and electricity, with several family members to each room. North Koreans often work six days per week. The meandering tourism industry (primarily from China) represents many urban jobs in hospitality, as well as a constant need for civic short-term employment, such as construction and infrastructure. Markets exist in unvisited sectors of Pyongyang; where tourists have never been allowed to go. During a stay in a city like Pyongyang; you are required to be accompanied by a government approved guide at all hours, except when you are in your hotel. – Cyrus

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Insane North Korea Military Photos

I recently discovered a host of crazy looking military photos on the official North Korea Flickr account. Some of these photos look straight from some type of Warhammer 40,000 concept art. It’s interesting how different the army appears compared to modern militaries. Their communist outfits make them appear as if they’re ready to take on the Nazis alongside the Soviet Union–but how well would they fare against the technological prowess of the modern Republic of Korea to the south?

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A Big North Korea Photo Collection

For a journalistic tour of North Korea by an American with exclusive access, see North Korea Uncloaked.

(Please be patient and wait while some of the images load)

This gallery should hopefully cover the spectrum of life in the hermit kingdom. Included:

Kim il-Sung’s 100th birthday parade in Pyongyang (April 15th, 2012) plus the enormous fireworks show.
Shots of the countryside.
Shots of the coastal areas
Images from Wonsan and Hamhung.
School-children in far away academies, summer camps and even preschools.
Life in Pyongyang
Propaganda art and monuments.
Close-ups of locals.
The Pyongyang Friendship Fair
The Children’s Show
Candids of tour guides and museum officials.

If there is any repeat images in this gallery, my apologies!

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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.

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.

Pyongyang Friendship Fair

(Note: please take a moment for the thumbnail images to load).

There is plenty of weird things about North Korea, from the Orwellian loudspeakers that blast propaganda, the Kim-cult, their distorted versions of history, the forceful isolation of their people, and their obsession with slaughtering Americans as portrayed in their propaganda.

However, at the very least, the Kim dynasty is making a 1% effort to connect with foreigners and show they’re ‘not so bad’.

(Read: North Korea Uncloaked for a full recent report about the DPRK by an American tourist).

Recently (April 15th), around the time of the failed rocket launch, I participated at a ‘Friendship Fair’ held in a park near Pyongyang, loaded with beer and dancing. Many countries participated, including Americans and Japanese. The North Koreans separated the audience into red and blue teams and hosted various competitions that lasted all day.

In addition, talented Korean child-gymnasts performed, a marching band of lovely Pyongyang ladies made an appearance, and traditionally dressed Korean women posed with tourists. It was nice being at an event in Pyongyang that did not involve being force-fed Kim il-sung mythology. The vibe was more like a carnival or a renaissance faire. It also helped me to imagine what a free North Korea could feel like.

Does this indicate the beginning of a better diplomatic effort? It’s hard to say, considering this was the same week that North Korea once again boasted how they would reduce Seoul to ashes. The very conservative influence keeps the country swayed heavily toward their old tricks. But hopefully these types of events continue in a country that is desperate to bring in some tourist revenue to help feed the starving masses.

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A performing girl at the Friendship Fair.

Pyongyang Marching Band

Some Western visitors compete.

More Westerners play.

Performing girls


Marching band

Children dance in panda costumes

Posing with a traditionally dressed North Korean woman.

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.

Creepy Pyongyang Loudspeakers

(This video has created some controversy in my e-mailbox. In response, please see my rant about preconceived notions of North Korea that I’ve dealt with since returning.<) George Orwell couldn't make this stuff up. Although there are nice parts of North Korea, some that I detail at my main photo-journal page North Korea Uncloaked, there is also some very creepy parts about the country as well.

These loudspeakers seem common in Pyongyang, and are used to organize rallies of troops across the mysterious city. We were looking out across the river from the massive Juche tower (Sorry about the camera shake. No tripod and my little camera moves around like a #$%#).

Imagine waking up to this every morning. Yes, I do think North Korea is absolutely dripping with evil. Although, the North Koreans themselves are surprisingly pleasant, good-natured people.

This was taken April 2012, shortly after their failed satellite / rocket launch.

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.