Adam Baidawi is a freelance photographer who spent a week in North Korea using the cover of an international marathon to enter the country. Baidawi and his fellow runners were shown around by a pair of government minders who controlled where they went and what they saw. These are some of the photographs he took, and they show a remarkable, rare human side to the enigmatic country.
All Little Girls Love To Dance
No matter where you go in the world, little girls love to dress-up and dance, and North Korea is no exception. These little ones performed a traditional dance for the tour group.
Big Girls Love To Dance, Too
The expression on the female dancer’s face says it all in this image. This young woman could be at a dance, anywhere in the world, looking across at her dance partner with that fun but challenging look.
Commuting Can Be The Same Everywhere
Waiting on the platform in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, are two citizens likely on their way to their highly desirable government jobs.
Not Everyone Loves Their Job
The flip side of the happier commuters who have the desirable jobs. This woman is taking a tired glance out of a grimy train window.
Lighting Up The Night
Kim Il-Sung was North Korea’s first supreme leader, and his birthday is a national holiday called “The Day Of The Sun.” Here is a shot of the evening’s celebratory fireworks display.
Birthday Celebrations For The Dead
The “Day Of The Sun” is celebrated on April 15th and is considered to be North Korea’s most important public holiday of the year. Families everywhere come out to celebrate.
Handcrafted Monuments To Past Leaders
Handcrafted mosaics celebrating Kim Il-Sung and the son who led after him, Kim Jong-Il, are a common sight around the city of Pyongyang.
Government Crafted Monuments Abound
The past supreme leaders are not only immortalized by delicate, handcrafted memorials, but by giant bronze statues. These likenesses look over the citizens in all corners of the country.
A New Kind Of Inequality
Economic inequality may be something we take for granted, but it is relatively new in North Korea. Until recently everyone was poor, but now, around 3 million people in Pyongyang have become the economic elite.
A Novelty In A Routine World
Baidawi and his fellow tourists were often met with slightly bemused looks from North Koreans who had never seen a foreigner in the flesh before.
All Dressed Up With No Place To Go
This is the Pyongyang International Airport departures and arrivals board. Air Koryo, North Korea’s national airline, flys to only five destinations including Beijing and Vladivostok.
Is This Seat Taken?
The airport is brand new and boasts a duty-free store, a news stand, an internet room and a coffee bar. Oh, and plenty of seating for the travelers.
Tradition Meets High Tech
Each of the teachers the group saw on their tour wore traditional North Korean dresses. This provided an interesting contrast to the technology in the computing classes.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
The children in these computing classes were all studiously sitting at their laptops, but not a lot seemed to be happening. Maybe the class scene was staged, or maybe the kids were like others around the world and choosing not to work too hard.
Not everything is about new technologies and forward motion. The North Koreans, quite rightly, take great pride in their cultural traditions such as in this example of calligraphy.
School Of Rock
These middle school girls gave the photographer and his group a demonstration of traditional North Korean music. It may have been choreographed by the minders, but the girls still play with vigor and emotion.
Even the most routine of journies must be elevated to a higher plane when you are traveling through such beautiful and elegant surrounding such as this.
Any Street Anywhere
Some things do not change wherever you go in the world. The faces of the masses making their way to work in the morning are rarely different to the ones seen in this image.
Your company’s motivational talks may be annoying on a Monday morning, but at least you do not have to stand outside to be told it’s going to be a beautiful day.
Held In Esteem
These ubiquitous statues are a cause to pause for the military. They must stop and show their respect by saluting the monuments of Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il.
This is the entrance to Pyongyang, a typically grandiose masterpiece over the highway into the city. This is how it looks almost all of the time, practically car-free.
Getting Away From The Crowds
This is how most public spaces in Pyongyang look. Very very clean, very, very stark and very, very quiet. It is rare to see people walking about on a day like this.
A Splash Of Color
Brightening up one of these bland public spaces is this little fella. He doesn’t seem to be too impressed with the situation though. Perhaps he has his sister’s hand-me-down bike?
Teaching All Things
The North Koreans may not be too enamored with the countries of the West, but they still appreciate the importance of being able to communicate in English.
A Perfect Illustration