Keyhole North Korea

As North Korea struggles to come to grips with its need for a free market society, and economic reforms, tourism is trickling into Pyongyang and bringing more and more Canadians, Europeans, Chinese and Indians into the country. This influx of tourism is exposing some the citizenry of North Korea to the many nuances of life outside their boarders. Against this backdrop the affluent and not continue on with their daily lives, much as anywhere else in the world.

In early 2004, I was made aware of a ten day tour going to North Korea, organized by the Korean Friendship Association. This tour had the added benefit of allowing journalists to accompany and would involve extensive travel throughout North Korea. Tours of North Korea are usually limited to very specific tourist stops and very little to no interaction with the North Korean public, this tour had a little bit more flexibility in sites visited as well as the possibility to interact with locals on a limited basis.

As a photojournalist, I try to keep an open mind and an open eye. Much has been written about the various problems in the North Korean regime. This tour would obviously not be showing us any such dire situations and no matter how controlling a dictatorship is, they cant control everything at all times. That said, having covered and documented some of these issues I was more interested in the daily hum drum lives of North Koreans, who, generally put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. There is a  minds eye picture in the world of North Korea as a ruthless military state, its citizens  foaming at the mouth, bent on the destruction of  the west. This vue has great advantage from a military stand point and making a military strike much more palatable for the outside world. A similar strategy was used to great effect not too many years ago with devestating results for the average citizen just trying to make ends meet.

I decided to tackle my introduction to North Korea at face value and present what I saw how I saw it, without embellishment leaving it up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions keeping my preconceived ideas firmly pushed to the back of my mind.