As one of the world’s last closed-off societies, North Korea has attracted global curiosity to what it seals off due to the unknown. Despite an ongoing food crisis that has spanned two decades and the instability of its political leadership, life manages to go on in the Hermit Kingdom. Check out our gallery inside North Korea to see photos that you’ve never seen.
Every citizen of North Korea has a job, and most of it is related to social upkeep and custodial work. As you can see here, these street sweepers are keeping the pavement clear of literally any kind of dirt or debris. This is most common in the capital city of Pyongyang.
North Korea is the secretive fascist state we all love to hate. Our mocking of the nation through films such as Team America and The Interview only tell half the story, though. Today, we look inside the horrors of North Korea.
Even when permitted to take photos, photographers in North Korea are always at risk of having their equipment confiscated, or even worse; being imprisoned on trumped-up charges of being a spy.
North Korea is a starving country. There’s no denying it. Well, except maybe from the regime. The average North Korean is drastically malnourished, hence why there are desperate efforts to expand farmland.
Train To Nowhere
It’s no surprise that this train station barely has any people in it. Travel in North Korea is strictly monitored to ensure citizens don’t leave the country. You have to feel for these poor people trapped there.
Gray, Gray, Gray
To say North Korea is a colorless landscape is putting it mildly. The regime seems to have a real liking for gray, brutalist style buildings that are reminiscent of the Soviet Union. It’s a Communist thing, I guess.
Off To Work
Far from the eternal smiles they are depicted as having in the propaganda footage, North Korean workers grimace on their way to their jobs on public transport. They look more than unhappy, they look angry.
Despite North Korea having a burgeoning taxicab industry, tourists are strictly prohibited from taking them. Visitors to the country are kept under a very close watch, in case they are foreign spies.
North Korea boasts that its military might is unrivaled. Like many other claims the regime makes about itself, that’s a complete lie. Here you can see some beat up truck being used to transport soldiers.
Anything To Declare?
North Korea is very, very strict when it comes to what you can take in and out of the country. There are many contraband items, and if they are found on your person, you could be sent to a labor camp.
Hit The Pavement
Pedestrian foot traffic is not uncommon in North Korean cities. Given that car ownership is incredibly low in the country, most of the residents walk on the unused roads and wide streets.
The capital, Pyongyang, is North Korea’s most developed city. The regime likes to make the metropolis seem modern and bustling, but many of the shopfronts are empty, much like the skyscrapers.
When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Still, public urination is most likely a severe crime in North Korea, so this guy is definitely risking his life when it comes to taking a leak. Scary, isn’t it?
All Along The Watchtower
Surveillance in North Korea seems to be a national pastime. Not only are there numerous cameras and even microphones hidden across the nation’s cities, but also watchtowers with military presence.
Heart Of Government
The photographer must have been very brave to get a snap of the central Government building without being arrested and charged as a spy. They must have used a concealed camera to take this shot.
Despite a rising number of North Koreans owning cars in the cities, the mostly rural nation has no such chances of personal transport. Funnily enough, the roads in these areas are built, just nobody owns a car.
The “Kim Jong Un” Channel
That’s right, the Government ensures propaganda is played on the television all day, every day. There’s no escape from it, and to even turn off the TV or the radio while it is playing is a dangerous offense.
Korean Ghost Towns
North Korea is filled with ghost towns. The Government usually mandates that the population of these once vibrant cities is regularly relocated, to help make their new developments seem more populated.
Not So Super Supermarket
The photographer was likely kicked out of this grocery store after taking this photo. These supermarkets are reserved for locals only, actually as a means of hiding their rationing procedures.
There’s a common theme when traveling around North Korea. Nobody looks happy unless they’re being forced to. Sure, we don’t all smile ourselves, but there’s something deeply sad about these people.
Off The Rails
Even at a rural train crossing, it’s not unusual to see a North Korean military officer waiting to let passersby know it’s safe to cross. Yes, it’s a boring job, but in North Korea, everybody has to give public service.
One of the biggest tourist attractions for both tourists and locals are the bronze statues of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung. There’s one rule about photographs, both statues have to be in the frame, or else.
If you want a good life in North Korea, you better join the army and become a party worker. This snap must have been taken in secret, as military officers prefer to remain anonymous and lay low.
If you take a trip to North Korea, you better be prepared to see the military wherever you go. They’re on pretty much every street corner, keeping a watchful eye on its citizens to ensure they don’t act out of line.
North Korea loves to build. Unfortunately, many of the buildings are shoddy, incomplete and ultimately not safe to live in. The regime looks production, though, and will keep its construction workers busy.
A guided tour of North Korea might not sound like a bad idea, until you realize the guide mandates what you see and when you see it. They also aren’t allowed to let you out of their sight, or else they face the consequences.
Keeping Up Appearances
While many of the photos this photographer took were done in secret, they were allowed to take some officially. This image was actually staged by North Korea, with this station being “busy” long after trains stopped.
Under The Eye
Even locals need a permit to travel. Most North Koreans just stay put as travel puts them at risk of coming across particularly cruel elements of the military who will imprison them for no justifiable reason at all.
The Friendly Neighbour
The photographer managed to grab this astounding snap showing just how close North Korea (left) and China are (right). It’s no wonder many North Korean citizens escape to China via the sea.
Friends With Benefits
Most of North Korea is a gray eyesore, but what about this bridge between the secretive nation and its neighbor in China? The solid construction and aesthetically pleasing design are down to it being mostly Chinese-made.
North Korea is one of the only countries in the world that has a media blackout and has kept total radio silence and an isolationist mentality throughout the years.
Electricity is a valuable commodity in North Korea, therefore it is very much conserved whenever possible. Here we see what night time looks like in Pyongyang.
Women go hand in hand when they go to and from work. The mentality of female connection is very strong as it is also very much divided between the sexes. Women are with women and men are with men most of the day.
Working the Field
Here we see a man and his animal working the field in one of the many tasks that a field worker has during the day. We don’t know what type of field they are yielding, but it seems to be a one man job.
The people of North Korea do not get to see Westerns very much, as tourism is not a big industry there. North Korea is so strict with its tourism policies that when a tourist does indeed come into the country, the people are not sure how to react.
Leaders Watching Over
In every household, school and business, the photos of the North Korean leaders are hung. It is a sign of disrespect to not have their images somewhere in the room.
Here we see children in North Korea roller blading as a nice pass time. There is a very limited list of approved pass times for children, and this is one of them. Such a unique capture.
Here we see a North Korean woman who is holding what looks like an ancient pistol. The gun has ornate etchings on it, and we are certain that she knows how to use it.
There are many rural parts of North Korea that are not seen in the small amount of images that come out of the country. Here we see a mother and her two sons selling products on the side of the road.
Even on the public transportation in North Korea there are photos of the country’s leaders. Here we see men on their way to and from work in what looks like an old style subway car.
Once again the leaders of North Korea make their presence known, this time in a wedding photo. This family decided to take their wedding photos in the main plaza in Pyongyang where there are bronze statues of the former leaders.
The strong army of North Korea, that one that is not to be messed with, is also made up of men. These men need a minute or two to take a smoke break every now and then, and this image managed to catch that very moment.
Here we see a slightly more colorful image of the country’s culture. Although the leader is making an appearance in the back of the stage, the little children who are performing are colorfully dressed and seemingly enjoying their performance.
These young children are carrying water jogs to help their family. This is a photo that was taken in the rural part of North Korea, where running water is not something that is easily accessed.
Here we see how construction is done in Pyongyang. There is nothing modern about their methods, if anything it looks very unsafe the way they are going up and down by rope alone.
Believe it or not, human waste is actually a valued commodity in North Korea. As the country is relying on expanding its farmland to prevent starvation, it requires masses of fertilizer to make the crops grow.