10 Days Inside North Korea
Text & Photography ©Nayan Sthankiya
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 visual journalist, 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 can't 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 aÂ minds eye picture in the world of North Korea as a ruthless military state, its citizensÂ foaming at the mouth, bent on the destruction ofÂ the west. This view 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 in Iraq with devastating 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.