The nightmarish vision of North Korea as the most oppressive state that exists in the world today has been challenged by one tourist’s remarkable observations. Quite frankly, I am absolutely astonished by what he’s shared with us.
So, Singaporean photographer Aram Pan visited North Korea last year and discovered healthy looking men and women shopping, playing volleyball and doing the kind of things people do in “normal” countries. As he says, nothing of what he saw resembled the “barren lands” and “really, really sad people” a BBC Panorama documentary he had seen before visiting the country had prepared him for. It is quite remarkable, really, here is a sample of Mr. Pan’s photos.
1. The Munsu Water Park in Pyongyang, North Korea, features colorful water slides, swimming pools and glass pyramids roofs. The complex opened in 2013 and appears popular with locals.
2. North Korean men wearing suits enjoy ice cream in the sunshine, contradicting the most commonly cited clich├⌐ that North Korea is a ‘destitute, starving country’. One man perches on a curb and waves in his white socks and sandals.
3. Women in brightly colored bathing suits throw sand on the beach, as others stand with their bicycles in the background. In June 2013 it was reported that, as part of his plans to turn North Korea into a ‘world class’ tourist destination, leader Kim Jong-un ordered the transformation of the industrial port of Wonsan into a beach resort town.
4. A woman in a pink gown gets her hair dyed at an old fashioned hairdressers. Mr. Pan said: ‘People seem to go about their daily lives and everything looks so incredibly normal.’.
5. Consumer goods, such as electrical rice cookers and other kitchen appliances, have begun to flood North Korea via China.
6. Fireworks explode during the climax of the Arirang Mass games 2013. The Stadium is undergoing renovation so there will be no Arirang Mass Games for 2014.
7. A North Korean woman holds a floral black umbrella in the streets.
8. The city of Pyongyang seen from the Yanggakdo Hotel, where Mr. Pan was staying.
9. The Tower of the Juche Idea is a monument in Pyongyang named after the ideology of Juche introduced by its first leader Kim Il-Sung. It was built in 1982 and the Tower is sited on the eastern bank of the River Taedong, directly opposite Kim Il Sung Square/
10. The fields looked ready for harvest as the photographer visited. ‘Why would anyone mock up miles and miles of crops as far as my eyes can see?,’ he wondered in disbelief that the things he saw could have been put on as a show.
11. Mr. Pan sampled the local cuisine while in North Korea. ‘Possibly the most unusual dish I’ve ever eaten. Gasoline cooked clams,’ he joked.
12. On his early morning walk around the country’s capital, Mr. Pan hoped he could capture photographs that would show a glimpse of the people and everyday life that has been often overlooked in favor of military and political images.
13. When Mr. Pan visited North Korea he saw workers clocking off at 6pm and heading home. Contrary to what a majority of people tend to believe, the last decade has been one of moderate economic growth north of the DMZ.
14. The Pyongyang Metro shows school children waiting to board a train and commuters leaving the station.
15. The streets of Pyongyang featured cars and buses like any other city but far less traffic.
16. There is more traffic than ever on the once notoriously empty avenues of Pyongyang. In this photo shiny looking cars are seen driving along the highway as the sun sets.
Or is this the North Korea we know?
Via The Daily Mail.
Share this tourist’s perspective on North Korea with your friends below — they will struggle to recognize the country we all read about in news articles.