A few photographs from my 2012 trip to North Korea
The North Korean flag on display at the Arirang Games. This is just a part of a propaganda event featuring around 50,000 performers. It's a gigantic show. Audacious. Spectacular. And like pretty much everything you see as a tourist in North Korea, quietly disturbing. Watching the "Games" in the world's biggest stadium in downtown PyongYang, only added to the surrealness of it all.
Mysterious PyongYang at sunset, from the city's only hotel.
The 'Dear Leader' and the 'Great Leader' immortalised in bronze.
A view of PyongYang
Looking at South Korea across the DMZ.
A North Korean border guard stands one small step away from the border with South Korea. In fact, most of the right half of this photo is in the South. With the sworn enemy just meters away staring intently at his flank, and noisy tourists attacking with cameras from the front, he's quite understandably unimpressed with things.
Don't do this if you think you're being watched...
I was in two minds about going to North Korea. Like a lot of people, I was intrigued by the place and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. At the same time, I didn't want my tourist dollars supporting such a brutal regime.
Over there, the government has the people believe that the war against the west is still raging. So the way we tried to see it, was that our visit, with the limited contact we had with locals, nonetheless did a little bit to show them that westerners aren't the North Korean-hating monsters the government propaganda would have them believe.
It's such an odd, sad, sometimes frightening place, that it was nearly impossible to know what was going on throughout most of our visit. It was only toward the end that we began to realise that everything we'd seen had been staged – a put on, a show for visitors. No small feat, and a bizarre performance, which, in itself, made the country worth visiting. This was an eye-opening experience. It's also the only place I've come away from, feeling more confused than before I entered.
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