‘Tongil Street in Winter‘ by Kernbeisser
Via Photography Prison, I came across this interesting Flickr set of Pyongyang in winter by Kernbeisser (who has alot of other North Korea Photos, too) which launched me on this extended internet recollection of interesting things I’ve recently read on the reclusive North Korean regime. Yes, I know, none of this is strictly photo related, but, of course, photography is all about building relationships between otherwise unconnected subjects, so I think you’ll forgive me for this.
Due to the general prohibition on journalistic access to North Korea, the only real way to get a look at the country is via tourist photos, like the Pyongyang set, or via satellite photos, available to us on Google Earth. If you’d really like to spend some time trying to figure out the country, the North Korea Uncovered add on is invaluable. Pieced together from news reports and tales from defectors, it provides a map key to the country’s infrastructure, military installations, and the yawning divide between how the country’s tiny elite and the great mass of the population live. [Found via a fantastic On The Media story]
It’s also worth noting, at this point, the excellent VBS.tv 3-part series on North Korea, shot by Shane Smith. The thing culminates at the Arirang Mass Games, a massively creepy demonstration of autocratic power. Definitely worth watching if you haven’t already seen it.
But the limited access provided to tourists in North Korea, like the tour that Smith took, is not the only diplomatic effort the regime engages in. Besides blackmailing foreign governments by returning kidnapped foreign citizens in return for visits by high profile politicians, North Korea has also opened a series of restaurants in places popular with South Korean Tourists…
But the best recent thing I’ve read on North Korea was a several page article in the always excellent Cabinet Magazine (whose most recent issue has a photo by Alessandra Sanguinetti on the cover, incidentally) on the kidnapping of Choe Eun-hui and her ex-husband Shin Sang-ok. Entitled “All Monsters Must Die,” by Magnus Bärtås and Fredrik Ekman, it tells the story of the couple’s kidnapping by the agents of Kim Jong Il and how the film obsessed dictator built a studio and forced them to create films intended to rival the best that South Korea had produced. Unfortunately, the article is not available online, but I was able to find a telling of the story by the BBC, though I assure you it’s worth tracking down a back issue of Cabinet to read all about it.