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September 17, 2008 Permalink

Recent scenes from North Korea

Celebrating 60 years of existence this year, North Korea holds out as the last Stalinist state in the world. In such a restrictive society, it is difficult - if not impossible - for residents to get news of the outside world, and for the outside world to see in. What photography comes out of North Korea is either state-produced, state-approved, or at the very least state-managed (visitors are restricted in their movement). Still, if you look over the following images with those restrictions in mind, one can still get some idea of life in North Korea in 2008. These photos were all taken within the past six months - some taken from the borders, peering in, others provided by North Korea itself, and several generously shared by freelance photographer Eric Lafforgue, who recently spent some time inside the country. (32 photos total)

Young koreans hold up colored display cards to form a background image for a performance of North Korea's Mass Games on September 12, 2008. The Mass Games are designed to entertain or celebrate holidays, and place emphasis on group dynamics rather than individual prowess. This particular show's name is "Prosper the Motherland!", dedicated to the 60th Anniversary of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, celebrated on September 9th. (© Eric Lafforgue)
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296 comments so far...

Such contrasts. Some of these look like they were taken in 1948.

Posted by adam bennett September 17, 08 12:07 PM

Great photos and captions. What's a "propaganda village"?

Posted by Eric Stoller September 17, 08 12:11 PM
3. it true that Kim Jong-il is died in 2003? A japanese expert says Kim died of diabetes in 2003 and world leaders, including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Hu Jintao of China, have been negotiating with an imposter.

Posted by DLT September 17, 08 12:15 PM

Maybe one day we won't see so many images like these from North Korea.

Posted by KidBass September 17, 08 12:17 PM


Posted by Anthony Brzeski September 17, 08 12:19 PM

That anti-aircraft battery is the perfect emblem of the whole sorry state. Looks like something you would use to shoot down a biplane in 1925, but without contact with the outside world, the woman on it probably thinks it's state of the art

Posted by Pete September 17, 08 12:24 PM

out of time...

Posted by Alecani September 17, 08 12:26 PM

I found myself surprised that they use Arabic numerals. I know Japan and China do, but I still found myself to be surprised.

Posted by Craig September 17, 08 12:39 PM

Amazing pictures. It is just so sad, yet fascinating to read and see glimpses of life in such an isolated world.

Posted by Irene September 17, 08 12:40 PM

Terrible shots, so reminiscent of Eastern Europe before the Soviet Collapse.

Let us hope that the Chinese persuade them to adopt a similar strategy to their own. We can't expect democracy and employment overnight, but China has succeeded in becoming capitalist and open over the past two decades without war. Let's hope they can do the same.

Posted by Bob September 17, 08 12:40 PM

Hard to believe that in #26 the picture of the flag in the background is made entirely of people holding up coloured cards...

#30 utterly captivated me. Such a beautiful shot, regardless of what country she is in

Posted by Gavin September 17, 08 12:41 PM
12. are very clever Alan. Hat's off.

Here, the photographer tells more about some images here including the one of the female soldier hiding behind the babed wire fence...

Posted by Jon T September 17, 08 12:42 PM

Wow... I agree with others here... these pictures look like they were taken from the pages of a history book, not present day - amazing images!

Posted by Cheryl September 17, 08 12:43 PM

Great shots as usual! Thanks!

Posted by Blake J. Nolan September 17, 08 12:48 PM

I've always wondered who and how many watch such large events.

Posted by Andy King September 17, 08 12:49 PM

I think that the most striking aspect of these pics is the almost total absence of happiness.

Posted by Marco September 17, 08 01:03 PM

I never thought I would see pictures such as these... Strange and somehow wonderful, nevertheless. What a strange, sad world they live in. With that and the recent wind storm we suffered, losing our electric for many days, it sure makes you appreciate our beautiful country and the many freedoms we have. God bless the USA.

Posted by Susan Bennett September 17, 08 01:05 PM

Kind of related: Joint Security Area is a Korean film about soldiers stationed on either side of the DMZ.

Posted by Dan Phiffer September 17, 08 01:05 PM

Yeah, looks like 1948. Impressive.

Posted by Joshua Johansen Yementa September 17, 08 01:24 PM

Gavin: Agreed on both counts. I checked the comments to see if anyone else was entranced by #30.

Posted by Mike September 17, 08 01:28 PM

1984, George Orwell

Posted by Waqas A. September 17, 08 01:31 PM

Superb and yes, sometimes haunting, images. The empty highway, for instance, and the notes on how the capital remains unlit after dark. I find some of the crowd shots absorbing, too. I saw the one of the male soldiers marching during last week's commemorative parade published elsewhere. The variations in individual expressions is fascinating.

Posted by danb September 17, 08 01:39 PM

I live in Seoul for my studies, and, when you are in the lights and the sounds of the city, it is impossible to imagine all theses scenes 70 kilometres
farther north...

Posted by Benoît September 17, 08 01:50 PM

Who are the three white men in the audience in #25?

Posted by Jeff Hogg September 17, 08 01:58 PM

wowee wow wow

Posted by Mar September 17, 08 02:10 PM

So damn sad, all of this. I wonder when it's all gonna end. I feel so sorry for those people. Photos are interesting, some perhaps even fun to watch, but I don't want to imagine what it's like to spend a single day in a place like that, let alone a lifetime...

Posted by Stefan September 17, 08 02:14 PM

Here's a link to that satellite imagery the freelance photographer mentions:

These photos show such a sad people. The few smiles I saw gave me a little hope.

Posted by Sara September 17, 08 02:16 PM

i get the big picture.. :]

Posted by limak September 17, 08 02:18 PM

In 32 Pictures you can count like only 2 or 3 people smiling.
I don't judge, but it's creepy. And probably what their aiming for.

Posted by Marcelo September 17, 08 02:22 PM

Are these pictures from 1970s? It's impossible to tell.

Posted by Hax Or September 17, 08 02:28 PM

Number 24 is absolutely amazing.

Posted by Linly September 17, 08 02:31 PM

Absolutely amazing photos. Their organizational abilities are incredible. The image they project to the world is choreographed with upmost care.

For the interested, you can actually see video of the mass games on Vice's N.Korea documentary here:
and more video of the mass games here:

Posted by weminedeeper September 17, 08 02:47 PM

#16 is an example of how we must conserve energy in an energy crisis. Maybe it shoud be mandatory that downtown office buildings not leave so many lights on after dark if no one is working. Americans leave all the lights on even when on one is home. How much could we conserve if necessary? Street light are a necessity, but N. Korea manages. It appears people walk everywhere in N. Korea. Is it cooler there?

Posted by Maria Saldana Cipriano September 17, 08 02:48 PM

#15, look on her face says it all...

Posted by ad September 17, 08 03:01 PM

It may take a decade or two, but socialism like this is coming to the United States. Our expanding welfare state, along with the recent seizure by our government of major private sector financial institutions, high inflation (the gov't creating new money out of thin air), and the failure of our three branches of government to follow their Constitutional responsibilities to keep each other in check, can lead to nothing else. Our citizenry is increasingly dependent upon the government to provide for them, and the only way the government can provide things is by forcibly taking things away from one person and giving it to another. I would encourage all of you to read Bastiat's classic work, "The Law"

Posted by Jon Kovac September 17, 08 03:06 PM

A quand des photographes francais?

Posted by charliat September 17, 08 03:10 PM

Si c'est pour voir encore la tronche de Sarkozy, laisse les photographes français à leur unique sujet de prédilection et prendre de si grands risques pour le... mitrailler, dans n'importe quelle situation !!!! Je n'ose même pas imaginer ce que serait un site comme celui-ci en France.
Bref, pour commenter la série du moment, la machine à remonter le temps n'a plus besoin d'être inventée... il suffit d'aller se promener dans certains pays pour se retrouver quelques décennies en arrière... Un peu triste quand même !!!

Posted by Fabien September 17, 08 03:39 PM

Je suis bien d'accord. Pas très fier d'être français en ce moment. C'est le règne de l'autocensure. Insupportable.
Bravo pour ce site superbe.
Bon courage pour tous les sinistrés écologique du monde.

Posted by JPCH September 17, 08 04:39 PM

I'm Chinese. I've seen a lot of pictures shot by Chinese tourists. Some of them were shot from train on the way. So I'm not surprised at all to see all these pictures. N. Korean's life is like 1970s or 1980s in China, with even fewer freedom.

Posted by Nobody September 17, 08 04:40 PM

Only one word : wonderfull !!

Posted by RYBLANC September 17, 08 04:54 PM

#30 is beautiful.

Posted by Joe September 17, 08 05:02 PM

Jeff Hogg:

The white guys are probably foreign tourists. "Arirang" (the name of the regularly scheduled mass games) is one of the standard items on the official tour itineraries in North Korea. Americans are for the most part only allowed to visit NK while that show is being held, so it's possible they're from the US, but when I went last summer, all the other tourists in my group were Europeans and Australians.

Totally worth going to visit. Even given the tight leash they keep you on, you see quite a lot more than you'd expect, and you'll have some of your preconceptions about the place shattered. (And some of them confirmed, of course.)

Posted by Steve September 17, 08 05:06 PM

They look like they are getting ready to take on the world and are SCARED.

Posted by mike bream September 17, 08 05:23 PM

Yeah the women look like they're ready to bust out and do some serious humping.

Posted by Kilgore Trout September 17, 08 05:58 PM

It is truly amazing to see these pictures. There are so many people in the pictures yet there is no life. The feeling of isolation is profound, yet there hundreds of thousands of people. So unusual.

Posted by Joshua September 17, 08 06:02 PM

Comment #33 is a brilliant troll, right? It has to be.

Also, the thing that sticks out to me even more than the lack of happiness is the rampant malnutrition. Those soldiers' faces in photograph 21 are gaunt. Not lean, gaunt. Like Auschwitzian proportions, practically.

What a terrifyingly backward little nation.

Posted by Carp Flounderson September 17, 08 07:45 PM

So much sadness in such awesome pictures.

Posted by Bobbi September 17, 08 08:04 PM

The girl in the pic #30 is goodlooking!!!

Insane state!

Posted by andresv September 17, 08 08:37 PM

I heard that they even confiscate fashion magazines from tourists or ask them *politely* not to take magazines out of their hotels because they do not want their people to be influenced by westerners, and that it is a must that every household have a picture of their president hung on the wall.

Posted by Anonymous September 17, 08 08:55 PM

You should realize, these people may not *like* thier picture being taken by an obvious foreigner. They're probably not comfortable around foreigners at all (just a guess). So, they wouldn't be smiling and happy-go-lucky around foreign photographers.

Not that I think they're very joyous even when foreigners/cameras aren't around, but just saying.

#30 *is* captivating, as others have mentioned. And 29 is a great capture of the moment. Lots of these pictures are quite striking.

Love this site. Thanks for putting in the work. Off to wikipedia to find out what a "propaganda villiage" is...

Posted by skydvr September 17, 08 09:10 PM

There is no obesity problem in North Korea!

Posted by Patrick Henry September 17, 08 09:56 PM

No need for time machines, indeed.

Posted by Andrew September 17, 08 10:14 PM

Thanks for the great pictures!!!

Posted by monamiga September 17, 08 10:59 PM

Thanks for the insight into this isolated country. So very tragic to see so much regimentation in these peoples lives. It makes me so glad i live in such a beautiful country as New Zealand.

Posted by Glenyce September 18, 08 12:53 AM

amazing ... what a beauty and sadness.. I hope they gonna be soon a democratic Korea and kick off this mindless president

Posted by h4t September 18, 08 01:28 AM

All that road and no cars to drive on them. What a waste. I'd love to take a sports car on that highway. Spanish Lessons

Posted by Bryan September 18, 08 02:34 AM

Thanks Big Picture - you never fail to amaze! Eric Lafforgue - Fantastic photos. You are a master.

Posted by Tim September 18, 08 02:47 AM

Go ahead Yanks, bring democracy, iPods and Paris Hilton to them !!!

Posted by Andres September 18, 08 02:52 AM

Amazing photos indeed!!!! I wish I was there..!!!
I went to NK week before their national day. What should I say about them? unique, paranoid, indirect, crazy, helpless¡­.really complex feelings indeed.

Photos here, though not as good as those above

Posted by Lushan September 18, 08 03:22 AM

Human beings can adapt to anything, even complete and total state control. Life goes on. Don't need to feel sad for them, leave them be, it is their way of life.

Daily threat to life and limb are far worse though. At least over at North Korea people do not get shot or blown up on the streets, unlike somewhere else...

Posted by WG September 18, 08 03:43 AM

unbelievable folks.. its an eye opener for true..

Posted by sriram September 18, 08 04:11 AM

Patrick (#51) There s no obesity problem in North Korea. Instead, there's cannibalism ... People are starving so bad, sometimes in the countryside they HUNT for wandering kids. Some refugees could manage to escape from this country (epic trip) and relate these stories.

I don't know why, but I have a feeling that having obesity problems overthere wouldn' t be that bad

Posted by Drix September 18, 08 04:35 AM

Amazing photos!

It is mind boggling that the powers that be would go through so much time and energy to oppress, control and isolate their own people because of political agendas. But now I know why they keep them hungry- so they'll be too weak to riot.

So many people yet hardly any life. The only thing I see in their eyes is hope..

Posted by Tom Bones September 18, 08 07:04 AM

Everybody is in shock. But why? What is the big disaster? I grew up in comunism too. In Romania. It was pretty much the same. It is true that people were not free to speak up. But I had a happy childhood, I didn't feel too much of any of the pressure what my parants had..
All the problems of the globalized world were missing. Was no terrorism, no school shootings, no pedophilia, no desgusting fat people, no rich, no poor, no greediness, we all were the same and we had a lot of time and a lot of friends. We were always playing on the streets, wondering around, when was dark was even more funny ;-)) Everybody had a job and were no homeless people. Many poor people of today's Romania are missing those times... So before you talk about sadness just think about these toughts. Do you think in the USA where people are smiling just for the moment of the picture, the happyness of that picture is true??
For me North Corea looks more like a virgin place yet untouched by the globalization and greediness. No artificial smiles from commercial posters, no mcdonalds, no banks, no false guidelines (well there is the communism which is false enough). It will soon all be over of course. That's why these pictures are so great value.
Congratulations for the photographers.

Posted by Japex September 18, 08 07:34 AM

"- Hey guys, want to go out for a beer?"
"- Sure, let's go to restaurant #27 and later on to night club #3."

You will have noticed that Communist regimes usually don't bother with complex names - it's Hospital #17 this, School #38 that. This for me is how the human soul is extinguished in such a regime: by dampening creativity. Of course, art itself cannot possibly die over there (just have a look at how artistic those military parades are in the pictures above), but the human spirit, which is essentially artistic in nature, is kept in chains this way.

Posted by ill kim jong September 18, 08 07:39 AM
Posted by Gogogo September 18, 08 07:43 AM

Propaganda village probably means a "fake", "not as other usual" village. Artificially built to show foreigners how high are the living standards in Korea, and what the regime reached economicaly. With simple words: it's a big lie.
Such things were usual in Hungary as well in 1950's.....
Interestin and great pictures!

Posted by Attila from Hungary September 18, 08 07:57 AM

A very strong set of images with a personnal echoe as they remind me how tricky it has been to do my job on a photography trip across the whole peninsula...

Thank you for sharing

Posted by Vincent September 18, 08 08:03 AM

Surreal reality...

One interesting thing:
the "mechanical" spirit of militarism is more visible/obvious in these than in the images we usually see.

I'm glad I got to perceive its spirit, that clearly.

Posted by Observer September 18, 08 08:09 AM

i would like to say 2 or 3 words about the comments i can read, sorry for my english, as i'm french.
I'm Eric Lafforgue, one of the photographer you can see the pics on this page.
I've been in Nk twice.
NK knows real problems, it is clear that when you visit the country, officials let you see only the best (hospital, restaurants,schools..), but you can guess the reality's not like this.
I wanted to say that it is possible to see some people smiling, even if they are rather distant with foreigners. I've taken pictures of people happy, smiling etc... Do not forget they are human!
Remember that Pyongynag is a town for privileged people, and the standart of living's not the same in the countryside!
The main problem is the lack of freedom and information: no newspaper, no tv and radio (apart the national one, the frequencies are bloked, you cannot see the foreign channels, it's forbiden), no web... and the access to food.
Many former communist countries people wrote to me saying it looked the same before the end of the east block, but i think they didn't suffered so much.

You can see more pics at

Posted by Eric Lafforgue September 18, 08 08:34 AM

Beautiful photos! Horrifying existence.

Posted by Alison L September 18, 08 10:02 AM

Veri Nice!!!

Posted by tm September 18, 08 10:10 AM

wow. some of the comments here make me wonder if i just wandered into an episode of "Jaywalking."

"What's a propaganda village"? C'mon, put your thinking cap on. It's a fake village built to show off to outsiders how 'wonderful' folks have it in N. Korea. Back in the day, East Berlin had all these high-rise buildings with modern (well communist-bloc idea of modern, anyway) facades. when you turned the corner you could see that the building was actually a completely empty and useless shell--leftovers from WWII bombings. Quite a contrast to West Berlin down the street.

Posted by Lighthouse September 18, 08 10:18 AM

I grew up in Afrika, basically on a dirt heap ruled by angry men. I was lucky to escape and get som kind of education. When I read the comments about happiness, I feel that the writers don't have any idea what happiness is. Smiles do not mean happiness. Why does America have so many drugs to keep their people happy? so much depression?

I am willing to bet that most of those people are happy. They may not have toasters or microwaves, but they are happy in their daily lives to spent it with family in a safe place, where they are not always worried about gettign killed, and magazines don`t tell them they need to have a Louis Vuitton bag to be happy. Smiling is a cultural thing, by the way. 100 years ago, white people didn`t smile in photographs either!

Just because they are communist doens`t mean they are unhappy. There are far worse places then North Korea in this world and they are supposedly democratic and capitalist.

Posted by karoo September 18, 08 10:42 AM

What beautiful pictures of such beautiful people.

The thing I find truly disturbing about these pictures is the largely judgmental reactions that have been posted. Their culture is different from ours! It is sad that we compare another country’s happiness based upon our own.

Clearly we need to take a good hard look at ourselves if we have to demean others to make ourselves feel better.

Posted by Brook September 18, 08 11:22 AM


Great pictures, poor North Koreean people...

Posted by tiboru September 18, 08 11:42 AM

I grew up in a communist country. Life was more simple but not easier than in a democratic environment. People live in fear under communist regimes. If you don't follow very strict rules you have a serious problem...
In a democratic country the police doesn't kill you for criticizing government. Attending public events isn't mandatory. And no one can force you to worship Kim Jong-il or Louis Vuitton.... you have freedom of choice....

Posted by Marius September 18, 08 11:52 AM

Im glad I got to read these last couple of comments, now I dont feel so alone!

Who says they are unhappy? They look healthy and happy enough to me. Also, that country is BEAUTIFUL. It looks untouched and untainted by "progress". I would love to visit there if I could. Reminds me somewhat of the relatively untouched hills of my home.

Also, Comment #35, I agree the US will continue to socialize but that reading is incredibly bad.

Posted by pevans34 September 18, 08 12:10 PM

What amazes me are the photos you don't see: the atrocities, the forced labor camps, the starvation, the entire families that are incarcerated or killed because one member of the family opposes the government!

Brainwashing and fear tactics here are on a massive scale.

Everything we see here is what they want us to see. Imagine what they don't....

I think a lot of americans still don't know much about North Korea and how scary they really are.

Posted by Kokogiak's wife September 18, 08 12:25 PM

If they're not Yanks they must be living wrong. Load the freedom wagon and bring your brand of prosperity to the down trodden. If a country doesn't ahve a Disneyland it can't be a democracy. McCain and his Lapdog dancer Palin will sort it! VOTE GOP!

Posted by Sarah Inane September 18, 08 12:44 PM

i want to go there. now

Posted by immortal ping September 18, 08 01:03 PM

very, very nice photos.

Posted by ersatz September 18, 08 01:49 PM

These pictures show a beautiful people who do not know what freedom is and probably would not know what to do with it if they had it. And that is very sad.

Freedom is one of the the most precious gifts you can be given. Once given you have the responsibility to pass that great gift along. I am thankful for the freedom to work hard and have enough to raise my children without any help from anyone, the x or the government. I am thankful that no one else has the ability to force me to conform to their ideas. I am free to show my children how great life is when you make your own decisions and are independent. With the freedom to choose you have the responsibility of your choice. Don't let anyone tell you how great life is for you and everybody else...if you just give up a little of your freedom...and a little more...and a little more...

Posted by Melinda September 18, 08 01:56 PM

Number of the most beautiful women on, in the Universe...

Posted by markopolo September 18, 08 03:30 PM

I wonder how many of the pro-fascist comments on here are real. bloody scary. people are starving and suffering in NK, it's not a society to idealize. it's a police state.

Posted by a, September 18, 08 03:53 PM

Eric.... Wikipedia description of N. Korea's Prop. Village:

Posted by Chris September 18, 08 04:22 PM

Just want to share that the Big Picture is one of my favorite things online right now. The range [Korea to Mars to well you name it] and quality is astounding.
All the best

Posted by Rob September 18, 08 05:17 PM

they seem very proud

Posted by brooks September 18, 08 05:58 PM

Take a look at picture number 21. Some of the soldiers in that picture look so much alike that I, at first thought I was seeing double. Maybe it's the hunger, and sadness, that makes them so much alike. I'm glad my husband didn't see these pictures. He served in Korea, and had great impathy for the Korean people. This would brake his heart. I know he wanted things to be better there.

Posted by ALV , Sept. 18, 08- 5:55

Posted by Alice M. Vaughn September 18, 08 05:58 PM

Incredible contrast of almost deserted cities or roads (as far as traffic is concerned) and "everyone" participating in the pageantry of the patriotic parades and commemorations

Posted by AndyC September 18, 08 06:05 PM

thanks many thanks fot those pictures and for your words too. i don't believe they are happy nor those mass parades are made with love or joy. i believe art comes from heart (evil or love) not from governement

Posted by michelep September 18, 08 06:07 PM

Wow... So many thoughts going through my head right now..

First, Eric, I'm blown away. Some of these pictures are stunningly beautiful. Since you have pictures here by other truly talented photographers as well, please give them my regards and thanks.

Second, I think we in the western parts of the world (which I pretty much guarantee we all are, those of us that has commented upon these pictures..), need to see these kinds of pictures every now and then. Allthough I am immensely glad that I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I must agree with some of the contributors that has commented on these pictures.
I believe we have "lost" something in the west, in our search for wealth and riches and fortune. What the North Koreans have, is a sense of fierce unity, a feeling of belonging and "safeness" which we in the west certainly lack. Since they most likely don't know any other way of life either, I'm not sure they themselves feel sorry for their own situation. OK, they might not have enough food or medical equipment, and that is truly tough, but if we choose to not take that into consideration, I believe they have a more profound sense of peace than we will ever have. At least that's the feeling I get from some of these pictures.

That being said, these pictures fill me with such profound awe, including number thirty. Her face in this picture gives me the feeling of a little girl, almost, JUST having finished her recital / dance / perfomance of some sort, and she knows she has done it correctly and well, and she is so pleased to have pleased the audience. It's alomst like she's thinking "I didn't screw up. I didn't screw up..", and she beams that wonderfully happy and slightly uncertain smile at the photographer.. Truly moving.

Thanks again for a stunning set of pictures.

Posted by Roadrunner September 18, 08 06:15 PM

Best. Photoblog. Ever.

Posted by Lynn September 18, 08 08:31 PM

Great BIG pictures! Showing what socialism can do for you!

Posted by KennyBoy September 18, 08 09:26 PM

nice photo this time.

Posted by Aliff Afiq September 18, 08 11:21 PM

Amazing photos as always

Posted by Sasha September 19, 08 12:56 AM

All those millions of lives being wasted. If only they knew what existed in the outside world. They have the look of cavemen seeing something for the first time. It all boils down to one thing: dominance over the citizens by one man, one ideology...that's the REAL crime in NK. Beautiful, talented people and place; their "government", phffft!! Thanks for the great pictures!

Posted by R2D2 September 19, 08 01:18 AM

Looking at the vastness of that highway I feel like I have a greater understanding now of what it means to live in North Korea than I ever had before.

Posted by K. Nickolai September 19, 08 01:21 AM

Thank you for the pictures - they are the warning for all of us - they are a good example of what might happen if people give up their rights completely and let the government take them wherever it pleases.
For those people who commented above that these people might be happier than the westerners - don't be so idealistic and critical to your own systems. Yes people can adjust to any hardships and dictators and learn to live happy with what little they have - but it will be a much more basic kind of life, with no real self-expression, a life with little to no choice. It is possible to have this kind of happiness in the capitalistic society too - many people are just perfectly happy performing some basic tasks and enjoying simple pleasures, but you can also choose to aspire to greater things, you can create and be unique - which way you choose in life is usually up to you. Many people though fail or refuse to see this freedom - many are just not comfortable with taking responsibility for their own actions and prefer to give up and let their government think for them - which is possibly why we have communist states and extreme consumerism like in US - here if people just stopped buying crap and listening to TV crap, trying instead to think for themselves, they'd be much better off. At least they still have that choice.
To #91: "What the North Koreans have, is a sense of fierce unity, a feeling of belonging and "safeness" which we in the west certainly lack." -- how safe would you feel if you knew that your own children might be spying on you? Yes, N. Koreans are united -- by the fierce fear and mass paranoia. This is a perverse and inhuman system.
BTW, I used to live in Belarus which is a dictatorship alright - at least over there people can complain all they want to each other about the government and what not - yet unable to change anything.

Posted by Sharikoff September 19, 08 01:59 AM

I was there in 2007, and this is a very accurate representation of what you will encounter.

Posted by K. Carlson September 19, 08 02:06 AM

You have to wonder who is brainwashed judging by the comments here. I dont see anyone starving or any less happy in those photos or the three border crossing ive seen from china. They just look like normal well-fed people.

Perhaps you are just seeing the bias Western media has taught you to see?
Ever noticed the Honda moped or the toyotas and mercedes and chinese goods trains? The north korean students studying in china?
is that the isolation you speak of?
It looks better off than much of rural china.
You know that China GDP per capita only surpassed the NPRK a few yrs ago?

Posted by tom September 19, 08 02:09 AM

I believe we have "lost" something in the west, in our search for wealth and riches and fortune. What the North Koreans have, is a sense of fierce unity, a feeling of belonging and "safeness" which we in the west certainly lack. Since they most likely don't know any other way of life either, I'm not sure they themselves feel sorry for their own situation. OK, they might not have enough food or medical equipment, and that is truly tough, but if we choose to not take that into consideration, I believe they have a more profound sense of peace than we will ever have. At least that's the feeling I get from some of these pictures.

Yes, let's not take the shortage of food and medical equipment into consideration and go by the "feeling" we get from looking at a bunch of pictures. It's always nice to be able to look at pictures of the less fortunate online and pontificate about how "profound" their miserable lives are . We've lost something in the West by our search for "wealth, riches and fortune?" Tell that to the North Koreans eating tree-bark. The country is run by a debauched lunatic, who lives a life of luxury that would make the richest scumbag western capitalist blush. Meanwhile his people are starving to death.
Yes, a "profound sense of peace" is wonderful, when you've resigned yourself to the status of livestock.
The country is one of the most horrifying places on the planet, hands down. Those pictures are great -- they indeed show lots of beautiful human beings. But they're not "beautiful human beings" because they're North Koreans. They're "beautiful human beings" because they're beautiful human beings.

And human beings, beautiful or not, deserve a hell of a lot better.

Posted by Clown George September 19, 08 02:34 AM

looks like 1984......waiting for 1776 to arrive...hopefully sooner than later.

Posted by j boat September 19, 08 03:03 AM

As someone who has studied the histories and societies of most of the world's dictatorships, nothing surprises me about these photos. What scares me, however, is the amazing number of people on the comment list who are so mind-bogglingly stupid that they can say things like "it's their way of life" (as if it was something they got to choose) or how wonderful it is that they aren't obese, or about how being a slave is great because it stops you from being "materialistic". It's that kind of fatuous, spoiled-brat ignorance that made Auschwitz possible. The photos are superb, and to anyone with even an ounce of humanity or common sense, tell enough to condemn the regime. But they of course do not come close to revealing the full truth death camps and famine.

Posted by Phil Paine September 19, 08 03:50 AM

For those who do not know, since 1995, over 3.5 million North Koreans have died of starvation, not starvation-related issues. Communism did that. And most of them were children. It is truly sad to see those who are lionizing the state of North Korea; it only confirms dearth of humanity in them. Did someone say they were happy? No, they are not happy, not because they lack things, but because they lack innate freedom which they cannot exercise. Fyi, ever since the introduction of communism, over 110 million people were killed because of it - and mostly by their own freaking governments! So enjoy your freedom and pray for those who do not.

Posted by sam austin September 19, 08 05:01 AM

Amazing. good insight!

Posted by Nilas September 19, 08 05:22 AM

it's different from China.

Posted by half|half September 19, 08 05:44 AM

#19 - I take it as great pride that it would be near impossible to get that many people to stand still for that picture in any western society. You would just never see pictures like this that DON'T come from a Stalinist society.

#2, #4 - Still, what a beautiful, beautiful countryside.

#30 - I suppose that even a girl in a fully repressive country can look happy an invigorated at a dance. Very beautiful. Sad that they are only allowed to enjoy that sort of thing for an hour.

#15 - Made me sad. There is a look of nervousness in her face, as if she doesn't trust... as if getting her picture taken scares her.

Between the countryside photos and the city photos I go between the feelings that I am looking at pictures from 17th century Europe, and Post Apocolyptic End of the World Omega Man City Life. Everything looks either empty and primitive, or run down and void of life... as if I'm an archiologist in a thousand years looking back at human cities that were abandoned or destroyed.

Posted by Zalitar September 19, 08 09:27 AM

why would anyone by smiling?

real people (other than americans who are like a nation of Johnny Cabs from Total Recall) don't smile 24/7

Posted by Sam September 19, 08 10:02 AM

I am relatively new visitor to this site. I am really overwhelmed by the images that gets posted in this website. I was always curious to see how is life in North Korea. These beautiful images just gave me what I wanted to see. I guess there is more than what meets the eye. I am from India and I know what freedom of choice means, I am really feel sorry that people there dont have that freedom of making choice. Both have pros and cons.

Posted by Preetham September 19, 08 12:08 PM

I dont think ANY country displays more patriotism and devotion to the nation than North Korea. This fascinating photoblog is evidence that the more patriotism a country displays, the worse that country treats its people.

Incidentally, America has been a lot more patriotic lately.

Posted by Aaron September 19, 08 12:26 PM

Yeah it is sad they don't have a Walgreens on every corner where there isn't a Starbucks. Or a Wal-Mart every 5 miles to buy crap that is used once or a very short period of time and then discarded or pushed aside in a cluttered house or garage. They don't get to throw away 10 million paper cups and napkins a day or have all the ground and air pollution that comes with it.

Posted by Fred September 19, 08 12:31 PM

Where are all the beggars and people without health insurance or educational opportunities? Where are the dead lakes and rivers? Where are the millions of forgotton minorities?
However, like us, they do seem to favor being led by tyrants with very little education.

Posted by jfc September 19, 08 12:53 PM

Amazing Photography - Perhaps I should google "Eric Lafforgue" and ad him to my Facebook

Posted by Scott S. di Vincenzo September 19, 08 01:10 PM

I saw North Koreans on only one occasion and they were absolutely mirthless, and seemingly devoid of emotion.
I can't imagine a society, not engaged in war, that is more unhappy and degraded by totalitarianism.
Their abject poverty only adds to the misery. A very tough situation.
These photos are very striking, especially so the ones that capture the expressions of the faces in groups.
I find my eyes drawn to the eyes of different individuals and wondering about their lives and their thoughts.
Strong stuff I would like to see more.

Posted by Steve Boyer September 19, 08 01:35 PM

Propaganda= meant to send a message by the sender that things are as the sender is saying. By the way, some defectors to North Korea end up living in the propaganda village as a show that they chose "the right life to live." The only thing is that you can be sure that you are watched even more carefully there than in other places.
The place is indeed lovely but not so good for growing food as it is quite mountainous and suffers bad floods at the wrong time "cooking" the rice in the field if it doesn't just wash away. Every year, the North Korean government threatens military actions in exchange for aid. Much like a staving dog that begs for food but growls even as it does so.
Lots of older South Koreans speak sadly of the North. Many soldiers have wondered if they could fight people who look much like themselves. They have even wish the North could join them. Yet, I didn't hear them say they wanted to join the North.
These great pictures show me the same thing I remember thinking and talking about before when I was stationed in South Korea for a year. I am glad to be in the United States.

Posted by D. Fox September 19, 08 03:30 PM

I was there last year and spent every day touring the country. At first it was quite intimidating and I was very judgemental. By the end of my time, I came to see things from a very different perspective. First off, you have to understand that even though the vast majority is in the military, does not mean that they spend everyday training to shoot others. Since this is a communist country everyone in the military is required to do all the work of the country, such as building roads, bridges, disaster relief, putting in sewer systems, construction, etc. Remember this is not a capitalistic country where someone sets up a construction company. Thus, the woman is probably on her way home. Second, just because you don't smile doesn't mean you're not happy. My parent's wedding photo and many of their photos of their time show them not smiling. Not smiling is very common in Korean photos of the first generation. Third, their very simple self reliant lifestyle also means a lack of greed, lack of divorce, lack of homelessness, lack of employment, lack of murder, lack of immorality, lack of pollution, etc. Of course it has its faults as a culture, but the people I got to know were very happy and enjoyed the relationships in their community. Their country is heavily mountainous and terrible for growing crops with the monsoon seasons. If they had enough food though and in my humble opinion the freedom to worship God freely, this would be a very simple and peaceful place to live. History shows us how often we demonize cultures for what we don't know or understand, the Native Americans, the African Americans, Asians, Southerners, Northerners, etc. Perhaps it would behoove us to try to understand, before we make judgements. God bless.

Posted by John P September 19, 08 06:08 PM

I was there in the early 1950's. Given the chance, they would be just like us - in some cases that would be too bad. I was involved in a very tight and difficult situation, and had to kill four of their soldiers over 55 years ago, and I still have to carry that luggage around. It is not fun. People are people, only their environments are different. We should be thankful for what we have, but we are definitely not perfect. South Koreans and North Koreans were virtually the same. Only their uniforms were different. They all had families and cared about them.
North Korea has changed. Structurally, it has been a vast improvement, but socially it is hurting. Except for the village at the bottom of picture 2, that is how I remember Korea. I remember the devastation and the cold winters.

Posted by Dick September 20, 08 12:53 AM

Totally fascinating to see somewhere that isn't globalized. Amazing that the main photographer managed to take these shots too.

Posted by Rachel Howard September 20, 08 06:43 AM

of all the pics, you only see one with a person smiling. Sad...

Posted by Adam I. September 20, 08 10:22 AM

By looking and the previous knowledge i had from north Korean people,they are a people with great potential in everything.even much more than the south Koreans. The only thing has been the western & specially US has made them so isolated that had kept them far behind from other countries.We all know that if North Korea was a country with reach resources like oil&............. the US would have been there for 10 years and they were more developed than Japan.

Posted by Mehrdad September 20, 08 01:27 PM

I think it is funny here with some of the comments by people like John P. They went over there, bought into the propaganda, and export that view to their home countries. I assume N.Korea didn't let you visit their giant gulags or speak to people who spent lives there for petty offenses. It is amazing what people will excuse as "culture". I suggest people read up on first-hand accounts of individuals who have fled the country and can speak their mind without fear of having their family taken off never to be seen again.

Someone also said there are "worst places than North Korea" as an excuse as well. Kind of like how beating women is better than beating children, right? North Korea is one of the worst countries on the face of the planet with the most brutal, evil regimes that crush anything that doesn't just get in their way...a mere hint that it could get in the way will result in crushing.

A photo tour of South Korea may offer a bit of context for those who want to stick up for North Korea's culture differences.

Posted by Bill Jenkins September 20, 08 02:49 PM

i love pic 30. It's haunting and she's beautiful.

Posted by n kim September 20, 08 08:22 PM

I was in North Korea during the war (Police Action ? Thousands of people are a lot to die in a socalled police action) and North Korea certainly hasn't changed much.
About the only difference is the lack of american troops.They still have hunger and the look of fear on people's faces.I was there in 1951-1952.

Posted by Homer Holmes September 20, 08 08:33 PM

Being from the USA doesn't mean that you are brainless and mindless and endlessly materialistic. Some, true. But not all. I wish for these people the same thing I wish for all people. Freedom to think and spend every free moment feeling and thinking and doing whatever gives them peace. I applaud the photography and the opportunity to see another way of life, and maybe my country's way is not the perfect way, but it's the best way I know of. I would love to take all of the people in your photos and show them Stone Mountain, Georgia, the lights of Times Square, and a Starbucks. I would love to take them to get their first automobile of their very own and tell them they can go anywhere they want to. any time they want to, and with anyone they want to. And yes, welcome to McDonalds!!!

Posted by Dee Davis, Atlanta, Georgia September 20, 08 08:59 PM

I live in Venezuela; as I looked at these pictures, I wonder what our beautiful country could be turn out if we don't make a difference during the next ellection process.

It's so sad that the project of our illegal president is to make a socialist-comunist system and destroy our democracy.

This november 23th we won't let this to happen!

Posted by Javier Salazar September 20, 08 11:41 PM

Wonderful Job Boston Globe. You are to be Commened. I served a year on duty on the DMZ. with the 8th Army 2nd I.D. "In front of them all" ,You have shown the SAD truth. To be there makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The tention is very TIGHT to say the least. The South Koreans are so nice to us, and the North have been brain washed completely into thinking that we want to do them harm. "Peace is more than the absence of WAR." Please keep up the GOOD work "BOSTON" for showing the World the TRUTH! Signed..a New England EX GI from CONCORD NH.. GOD BLESS THE USA.

Posted by Anthony W Raduazo September 21, 08 10:18 AM

i live in Iran
this pictures are like my country.
aftar see this picture i feel so sad.
what can we do?

Posted by maziar September 21, 08 11:54 AM

Breath-taking pictures. Freedom is the only way. Cheers from Argentina.

Posted by Adrian Piccioli September 21, 08 04:47 PM


Posted by asia September 22, 08 04:51 AM

tanta pompa tanta megalomania e o povo morrendo de fome de militares paranóicos vigiando uns aos outros my god it is sick

Posted by william haddad from brazil September 22, 08 08:24 AM

I grew up in a communist state: Cuba. To all the people who said they would like to live in North Korea or that the world should follow a communist path I have two comments:
1) Please, go to those countries and live like one more citizen of it. Go to Cuba and live like a regular Cuban, with little food and no democracy or freedom. Or better yet, go to North Korea where if you leave that country they incarcerate the family members one left behind and treat them like they used to treat people in concentration camps. Please, go and live in those communist countries and you wouldn't even have the freedom to see anything on the web.
2) Please, stop being brainwashed. I think you guys will do the world a favor if you trade your current way of life with one of those poor people living in North Korea or Cuba.
Arriba Venezuela y Arriba Cuba!!!!

Posted by qban September 22, 08 08:50 AM

Wether you made it on purpose or not, the contrast between the last to pictures is just great. Keep up the good work, the future would be even darker without people like you.

Charliat > n'est-il pas temps de s'affranchir des barrières nationales et linguistiques ?

Posted by Sylvain September 22, 08 12:07 PM

nostalgia from SSRS times

Posted by xfghui September 22, 08 01:57 PM

Merci pour ce magnifique reportage

Posted by geo12 September 22, 08 07:09 PM

The very first picture says it all. Each person is merely reduced to a pixel.

Posted by Adrian Piccioli from Argentina September 23, 08 01:20 AM


Posted by sohaib September 23, 08 03:22 AM

Very nice, must be a beautiful contry.

Posted by Gustavo Porto September 23, 08 08:08 AM

bad images can't you give us another?!

Posted by X's September 23, 08 10:32 AM

And we were wondering where the bridge to nowhere went!

Posted by Ed Buckman Membership KWVA September 23, 08 11:34 AM

It is particularly hard to dissociate ourselves from the unrelenting propaganda machines from both sides. Underneath it all is the fact that even under the most opressive political situations, the human spirit survives. You can look at these photos and infer from it what you will, but more than likely we are just re-affirming what we want to think.

I spent a lot of time in Poland. I've found that the only way to understand someone's situation is visit them in their home. That is the place where true happiness (or misery) comes out.

Posted by elalak September 23, 08 04:25 PM

N.Korea and Cuba, the last two cominists paradise.

Posted by dos Santos, Rogerio September 23, 08 04:51 PM

amazing what North Korea could do in its crappy state, amazing to see what Korea could do unified under a normal libertarian democracy.

Posted by Sachin Desai September 23, 08 08:51 PM

´ë´ÜÈ÷ ÊïÞóÇÕ´Ï´Ù! Very interesting and thought-provoking within the parameters permitted.

Posted by Doc Rock September 24, 08 09:48 AM

North Korea suffers from shortages of many things. However, looking at these excellent photos, one thing there appears to be no shortage of in North Korea is beautiful women.

Posted by Visiopher September 24, 08 07:14 PM

i wanna go there too!

Posted by patricio September 25, 08 12:16 AM

Glad to see most of the people posting here skipped past thoughts of torture, media blackouts, 10 year mandatory military service, starvation, cannibalism, gulags, and child malnutrition to get into the real important task of America bashing.

Wait till the US influence on this planet ends, sh*theads.. then you can start China bashing, or Russia bashing... whoever runs your miserable life for you at that point.

Posted by John Quick September 25, 08 01:49 AM

I was brought up in a very strick family. When I did anything wrong, bang, I get punnished quite brother of mine got punched by Dad, his molar flew out. These faces i see here, remind me of my childhood...most times expressionless and when it was safe (no authorities around), boy, we light up so bright. You know which picture i like the most....the front row of marching women soldiers. I experience they look respectful, fierce, dangerous, charming and sexy. Dare I say no more. much love, tommy

Posted by Tommy Chin September 25, 08 05:47 AM


Posted by DHATTON2 September 25, 08 07:24 AM

The ignorance displayed in these posts is simply ASTOUNDING.

Please research before supplying Kim Jong-Il even more justification for his propaganda.

Posted by Korea_truth September 25, 08 10:50 AM

may ALLAH give u more strong thinks.

Posted by shadab September 25, 08 01:46 PM

Great pics! So sad to read comments of pitiful people how think Stalin was a genious instead of a mass murderer. The U.S. is not perfect by any means but having travled the world I've yet to find a place I'd rather be!

Posted by jeff spencer September 25, 08 03:51 PM

Absolutely wonderful, thepictures , that is.

Joan VAnce

Posted by Anonymous September 25, 08 05:28 PM

The higher ups is North Korea are class traitors!!!!!!

Posted by Anonymous September 25, 08 05:31 PM

Why does the author of the captions feel it necessary to point out that certain soldiers are female? Does he think we can't tell? Why not point out that others are male?

Posted by Emily September 25, 08 09:40 PM

@ Karoo
I grew up in South Korea with the threat of war constantly looming (at least in the eighties). I don't know if we can really say whether these folks are happy or not. I agree that what constitutes as happiness in 'developed' countries can be quite a fallacy, but to say that these people are safe from being killed or feel safe from being killed we do know is false. Secret police patrol throughout all parts of their society and misspeaking or falling out of place can be lethal for someone or their entire family.

Likewise, the massive food shortages that face this country is staggering. The shear irony that the government relies on their capitalist 'enemies' (South Korea and the US) to provide aid to them to feed their population is astonishing. The happiness felt by these people is the kind of happiness that comes from reducing one's necessities down to a survival lifestyle which could hardly be called a life at all. I understand that materialism has pervaded much of our lifestyle in the West, but this is the opposite extreme. A balance must be struck in both societies.

Posted by Lucas September 26, 08 07:14 AM

while there is great repression in North Korea, it is always wise to remind ourselves that people are people, and while the citizens of North Korea are indeed completely shielded from the outside world, and manipulated and propagandized within their country, the regular people also have regular lives and desires as all people do. They may not realize the extent to which they have been closed off, but to read comments about how people are amazed that they still have spirit in them is at best a bit naive. Anywhere in the world, people need to retain their spirit, otherwise they would not want to continue living, and certainly would not be able to hold a society together, no matter how much we may despise their political system.

Posted by jd drew September 27, 08 11:54 AM

Someone wrote a comment witch said that comunism is good that he/she had a good childhood in comunist Romania. Well comunist romania was the most free kind of comnist in the world Ceausescu drifted away from Russian rule...people were allowed long hair , and clothes that where in style at those times , and they could listen to rock music popular at the time , in the 1980s Ceausescu went crazy and paranoic , he crumbled the economy poverty took over ad the people grew restless. Ceausescu thought that he was threatend and had "Militia" undercover all over the place. Becouse of this the people began to hate him and it led to the revolution. Nord Coreea is a tolaly diffrent story .Comunist Romania compared to N.Koreea is like comapring America to Ieaq....N.Koreea is HEll on earth...people are tortured to death , death pnalty is as common as bread is to you...they have the worst kind of tortures, your whole family is heald responsible for your act, there are reeducation camps ad all kind of horrid things like every 2 ore something hours large speakers blast patriotic sound all over the cities . Ghet documented before comparing things you ignorant people

Posted by nek September 27, 08 08:49 PM

There are 12 photos of soldiers here. Seven just show men, and the men are labeled "soldiers," with no reference to gender. Four just show women, and the women are labeled "female soldiers." One is an aerial view that makes it hard to determine sex of the people marching, and they are simply labeled "soldiers." It's one thing to see this kind of language on the 1960s-set TV show "Mad Men," but this is the 21st Century. We have many men and women in the American armed forces, and many men and women clearly serve in North Korea's military. If you're going to single out the people you photograph by sex, at least by equal opportunity about it. I'm disappointed in you, Boston Globe.

Posted by C Sherwood September 28, 08 01:39 AM


Posted by darab September 30, 08 06:38 AM


Posted by ARTHUR A. HAUSER September 30, 08 08:39 PM

Having traveled the world (for which I am grateful), I am amazed at how many people have an image of America (and American people) that seemed shaped by the defensive and anti-American propaganda of their own cultures...or by the images that they get from American movies and media which in a free society is almost all critical or sensationalist.

It reminds me of a Russian family of immigrants that my church was helping. As the father loved coffee and was looking forward to having it always available, on my first day with them, I took him to a grocery store. He spent an hour and a half, looking at bean coffee, and fresh-ground blends, instant, freeze-dried, caf and decap, flavored, from Kenya to Jamaica to rain-forest free-trade, with percolator, drip and filter blends...and all in different sizes and at different prices. He finally left, without making a purchase, shaking his head and complaining of a headache from all the confusing choices. Later that day, I tried to explain searching for an apartment, obtaining homeowner's insurance, the concept of insurance, and shopping for furnishings. The next day we had sessions on job-hunting, benefits, employment policies, life insurance, health insurance, disability, workers comp and filling out employment applications. Long story-short: After 6 weeks they left America and went back "home where everything was simpler".

Posted by hardmanb October 1, 08 11:12 PM

Ilyen lepukkant negyedeket nálunk, Salgótarjánban is lehet fényképezni.
That kind of ravaged quartier you can find where i live, in Salgótarján too.

Posted by lui October 4, 08 03:09 AM

Those who say that they would like to go, or even approve what NK is, are so ingenuous, so naive. Those people are suffering. I grew up in Cuba until my 26th, just 2 month ago, and you can't imagine how much your live is dictated there. And I am pretty sure that it is nothing compared to NK. The reality is that those of the government are not so communist, they are opportunists. And need to keep things going the same way so they can continue "enjoying the communism." Forget it, you will never understand. Just stop supporting the slavery.

Posted by jose from Cuba October 5, 08 01:44 AM


Posted by DANIEL October 6, 08 12:37 AM

Where the cars? That is not a life.......

Posted by Gooltee October 7, 08 02:20 PM

For a country so technologically impaired they have done we cannot, remove religion and god. Two thumbs up for them.

Posted by Moses October 8, 08 09:54 PM

To 159: "Female" soldiers are mentioned probably because for the majority of the world it is not normal and unusual to see girls on AA guns.
The real brainwashing is to adopt into people's head that it is normal to send woman into gunfight. It is against Nature.

Posted by Barna October 9, 08 05:59 AM


Posted by COURTNEY October 10, 08 02:41 PM

if they are unhappy why they are trying escape to South korea? On this pictures we can see most ppl from towns. Did you see these ppl in a villige? they look at least unhappy. N Korea is full of paradox. e.g they wanna finish hotel for 3000 toursits when they got 1.5 k tourist per year.
Great photos.

Posted by tybek October 12, 08 10:58 AM

As I viewed the photo's, I could'nt help but feel drawn into them, and experiencing a strong feeling of dispare! When of course realizing I was, were I am, that feeling became a sense of warmth realizing God's gift to all humanity should be what we enjoy here in North Americca "PEACE"!!! I am Canadian and have traveled much of the world, but have only come close to what your pictures portray on a few occasions. It's too bad we can't show them to ALL, of the citizens of the free would, thus "maybe" letting them know how lucky we truly are!

Posted by Kai R. Friis October 12, 08 03:50 PM

All of you Marxist are only seeing the "utopian" pictures. What you don't see is all the torture that is going on behind the scenes. Remember Pol Pot? Remember how many people Stalin tortured and killed (makes Hitler look like a puppy dog)?

If I could go back in time, I would have eliminated Marx, Ingels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, Castro, Chavez, Sung while they were young adults. Maybe only then, Communism would have never been created.

Those of you who believe in Marxist ideals and think everyone "wants" that, are FOOLS!

Posted by Ben October 13, 08 03:54 PM

Beautiful pictures, but ... a lot of the comments by Eric are factually incorrect.

Having lived in North Korea, I can also say that there is plenty of smiling there, and plenty of unhappiness, too. Just like everywhere else I've lived. The photos by David Gray show the Korea I remember.

Posted by Ryongsong October 15, 08 10:11 AM

This country awesome

Posted by mad1982 October 15, 08 08:17 PM

GOD! WHat is this?? Is it that humans be the prototype for PCs????

Posted by violet October 17, 08 11:21 AM

How could people be happy if they're not allowed to know what is happening in the World?

Posted by Vincent October 18, 08 10:25 AM

Very fine.Bravo

Posted by alex October 18, 08 03:12 PM

May I suggest that those who think these photos portray an idealic life, go to a library and look at the photos of life in Germany in the late 1930's, or the USSR in the 50's (see NY Time Moscow Bureau Cheif Kedrick's book The Russians for an unvarnished view). Everyone was content and enjoying life. Well, maybe not everyone, but those people didn't make it into the approved pictures. One difference between Adolph and Kim,is that Kim is more of an equal opportunity oppressor. I wonder, was the photographer allowed to go anywhere he wanted and photograph anything and anyone without a guide, and then take all his pictures out of the country without review by the autorities.

Posted by ETQ October 20, 08 12:16 PM

To all of you, who think, that people suffer in N.Korea - I agree. But think about, how much we suffer in our so much advertised "western way of life". I grew up in former socialist Yugoslavia, sure we did not have many things, but as a kid I did not have any wish for them, because I did not know them. Brainwashed? Maybe.
But so are the children in the west today - in the opposite direction. We must have this, we must have that, it has to be good for me, because it was shown on TV. Common, kapitalist western life is also a kind of repression, only with money, not guns. Think of the many people that live in traylors in the US. We as the former socialist country use them only for vacation by the seaside. Think of that, you free Americans. I think it is tragic, that people have to live in trailors. And it is all caused with the endless struggle for more money.... By selling nothing you must earn a lot. That is why the finance system colapsed....

Posted by Anonymous October 23, 08 02:17 AM

Wonderful pictures.
And wonderfully naîve comments, most likely from Americans, that these people must be sad, poor, and miserable because they dont have freedom.
If you really think about it, you probably suffer a lot more than them.
They don't have to worry about their work, food, health, mortgage or being killed anytime they leave their house (or even when they dont).
Sure, they don't have the freedom, but they don't know it and probably don't miss it.

I really do not not propose that kind of government that they have, but who say your way is the right way?

Posted by JJ November 4, 08 09:33 AM


Posted by wow November 5, 08 08:34 AM


Posted by sad November 5, 08 02:15 PM


Posted by GDJared November 5, 08 07:16 PM

@ post 180

"They don't have to worry about their work, food, health, mortgage or being killed anytime they leave their house (or even when they dont)."

You're kidding me, right? They've been having famines and you say they don't have to be worried about food? Get real.

Posted by John Jacob November 20, 08 12:56 PM

It's impresive how the comunist ideology has frozen the country to avoid total caos. As I see it you put a little democracy into a country like that and total caos would ensure. They are living with bread crums and they still behave, not like in african countries where people have horrible wars or like in india where there is mass suicide. Frozen, it's like frozen in time but I wonder if it would be any better if that control was removed, maybe it's their organization that avoids a total collapse of their society by things like crime and riots. I do not think any other kind of governmente could work if no more resources are available and with this world in crisis I doubt they will have it. I see it as an imposible society frozen in time.

Posted by Randal Pinto Bianco November 30, 08 11:30 PM

we really need 17th century

Posted by Anonymous December 1, 08 01:22 PM

so AMAZING !!!

Posted by Maren December 2, 08 04:41 PM

Excellent photos as always.
Shame about the country...
They need a revolution... and fast!
I doubt their rulers live in the same poverty.

Posted by KD December 5, 08 05:35 AM

This is what happens when an economy, any economy,
cannot give freedom to it's people. It has NEVER worked--macro-economically-
PLANNED and centralized SERFDOM.

Kim-Il-Sung and Kim-Jong-Il have succeeded in making
North Korea (DPRK) a super-Orwellian nightmare come true
and the People have NO IDEA about the outside world.

Fifty-eight years of "juche" centralized-planning has made
Communist North Korea a TOTAL macro-economic

The Color pictures are excellent.. FREEDOM will come to North Korea.

Maybe onew

Posted by nick stage--phd. December 26, 08 04:56 PM

reminds me of comunist romania,this is where ceausescu got his inspiration

Posted by ted January 21, 09 07:21 AM

Arguably the most revealing photographs of North Korea I have ever seen. I can only marvel the way of life there and it is refreshing to see such a strong sense of unity amongst the population of a country in the wake of relentless foreign pressure. I feel we in comparatively developed countries have embraced capitalism all too easily without realising its potential flaws. May be its time we try and blend capitalism and communism to prevent individuals from getting any more selfish than we already are. I once heard someone say:
Capitalism is a phenomenon where the wickedest of men commit the wickedest of acts for the social good of all.

How true!!!

Once again! fantastic pictures and thank you

Posted by Danish January 24, 09 08:06 PM

First of all, magnificant photos! Each and every one of the images are breath-taking and thought-provoking. My hats off to you Sir, who either had part in taking these wonderful photographs or publishing them.
Now, to all the individuals who posted comments that see beauty and admiration for an idealogy that has suppressed, manipulated and imprisoned each and every human being of North Korea for more than 60 least I am free, free to creatively think and say what my mind desires, to travel where my heart desires and most importantly am free of persecution for who I individual.


Posted by Mike February 10, 09 07:37 AM

The photographs are fantabulous . It gives me a projection about North Korea . I love to visit their Country if i will get a chance in my life . Every thing it has prose and corns that we have to consider.They are also good and they want to remain isolated from other Country . Let them live like that and wish for them . That is called freedom.

Posted by Dipankar saha. March 9, 09 08:54 AM


Posted by CMD March 16, 09 10:49 PM

It looks like they are a huge mass of robots- not people- in the photos of military parades.

Posted by Hiro March 31, 09 03:18 PM

I am luck that I was not born in North Korea.
Thank Lord...

Posted by Buzz March 31, 09 11:11 PM

Great photographic coverage. Thank you so much for offering us this insight, BOSTON GLOBE!

Posted by Maria Demée April 4, 09 03:42 PM

nick stage von hayek. guess you never studied china while you were getting your phd in neoliberalism?

Posted by jc April 5, 09 12:42 AM

I grew up in an Eastern European country before and after communism fell and I am currently living in the US. I am fascinated with following communist countries and imagining what life would have been if...and seeing how long these regimes will last. The short story is that I am very happy I am not living in communism anymore.

It is true that communism brings a certain sense of stability( for lack of a better word) because of the degree of predictability. Because people can't focus on what they have too much( I can assure you some people have more than others even in NK), they focus on relationships and that adds to the sense of stability.

My first argument as a woman to those of you who say people must be happy is that most communists regimes mess with woman's bodies. My home country had banned abortions and there was no birth control available, resulting in illegal abortions and death. I see North Korea practices forced abortions and I'm ready to bet birth control is not available at all or very hard to get. That must be funny, right? If you check across the board for communist countries, you will note this is one of the first things they do: decide on reproduction. To those of you who are Republican, I very much wish you thought harder about what you want.

Dictatorships twist people's lives and the access to birth control and the right to decide when/if to have a pregnancy is only one of them. One that I care deeply of because I would have been directly affected if that system continued to exist. There is of course a list of freedoms that the state feels has the authority to decide upon in its great wisdom. And that makes for a very twisted world in its whole. Amazingly, politically I stand somewhere to the left as I don't care for individualism very much, but I truly wish nobody had to live in totalitarianism.

Someone said that probably those people don't know how bad their life is. I must say that is true. We all evaluate our lives by comparison. When the term of a comparison is lacking, there's not much to compare. I've seen 1984( the movie) at some point after communism has fallen and I remember thinking that that must suck, that it was much worse than the world I've lived in. Well, you know, the movie wasn't far from what I discovered was reality( in essence). So there is a certain bubble effect.

I wouldn't say the US is the best recipe( quality of life rating is 7th or 8th overall, 1st place Norway), but it does work better for now. I personally think it needs less of the island feel and less of the media control there is( I've seen it before and believe I can recognize when things are carefully selected across all political orientations).

To be on topic, the photos are extraordinary.

Posted by E April 5, 09 02:43 AM

Every authoritarian society has "places" to show outsiders that have appeal and careful to steer them away from the "places" that don't where the suffering is taking place.

So, although these are some pretty pictures, how many more are there that weren't taken?

Posted by Maria April 8, 09 03:16 PM

I cannot believ some of the comments here. Let's get a few facts straight. The North Koreans damn near worship their leader. They praise the great Kim Jong Il especially when "minders" are around.
Def- Minders are people who make sure North Koreans are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
On any given day, one can witness the people praising the great Kim Jong Il and when someon gets loud, another will get louder until they work themselves into a frenzy.. Why do t hey do this? Those who don't show extreme love for Kim Jong Il have a tendencey to vanish. This country might as well be on a different planet. The people are brainwashed from birth. For those of you who feel like it's such a great place-fine. I cha;;enge you to renounce your citizenship and go live there. Then, and only then, will you see what it is truly like. Excuse any typos but I cannot see what I'm typing at this momenet. Kim Jong Il WE PRAISE THEE!!!!

Posted by Tony -LA April 8, 09 03:30 PM

North Korea is a wonderful Utopia. It has no crime and everybody is equal. Well, most people. you see, communism does not get rid of class. It actually works like Feudalism for the industrialized world, that is, it creates a duel class society........a ruling class (The Communist Party) and a peasant class (Everybody else).

So much for a Utopia.

Posted by A April 8, 09 08:21 PM

Hey Dipankar saha,

Don't you work for the North Korean government.......?????

I agree with CMD, I think anyone who posts any pro-North stance must be getting paid.
LOL@ "The great" Kim Jon Il........I heard he likes it where the sun doesn't shine

Posted by Anonymous April 8, 09 08:31 PM

North Korea is wonderfull place. The goverment only spy on people who will be terrist. Good people live good life with no problem from goverment. United States love war with people and to kill people. If United States know how goo life is in North Korea then all Americans will want to leave United States to live in North Korea. One day all Korea will be one. United States dont stop it.
People who write on this board and talk bad about Kim Jon Il are be ashamed for what they say. Kim Jon Il is great man and leads North Korean people to peace.

Posted by P-Man April 9, 09 03:33 PM

These photographs are beautiful and haunting at the same time - pictures of a world that is probably the most closed-off in the entire globe.

Reading through all the comments, I see so many emotions from the posters - people who want to remind people of the harsh life for North Koreans, and others who see the country as a socialist paradise. There must be some truth in all the observations, since none of us (with the exception of people who've managed to leave North Korea) have lived there before. The world does know of the horror of starvation in that country, and that the media is highly restricted. We can also say with some certainty that there exists a strong iron-fisted government and military.

And, at the same time, it IS a country that has not been polluted with western cultural colonialism. Restrictions have made life in the country very simplistic. It is only a shame that this has been enforced on the people, and not done so by choice.

There are so many lessons to be learned here - I'm very appreciative for this look into North Korea, and the former soldiers that have posted on this board who were in the demilitarized zone during and after the war - thank you for speaking about your experience.

Posted by John B. April 10, 09 01:46 PM

Eric Lafforgue.... grow some balls and take some pictures of the nasty side of korea. take some nasty pictures of the north korea that people embed as ugly, disturbing, and demoralizing. show the world that this country is in some serious wanting of self-esteem to be governed by such a lame and overvalued government and political party. show the world what the north korea is like when they overlook women trafficking and postitution. show the world the famine and tightly controlled jailed cells in the north korea. show the world how they are beating to death because of their non belief in military-first policy, or just simply not agreeing with the government of the the treatings of individual rights. this country disgusts me.

Posted by guy with balls April 25, 09 06:55 PM

Fine pictures, I can see in this mirror our past life.Back to USSR!!

Posted by Anton Andrianov, Russia April 26, 09 05:35 AM

Greeting. I'm moving, but don't worry! [Someone once] told me we're all on the same planet, so I'll be okay!
I am from Guinea and now study English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "Synthroid package insert this ruling clears the way for illinois courts to determine whether the plain language of state and federal law protects the rights of."

Best regards :), Michele.

Posted by Michele May 16, 09 03:51 AM

nice views I like the nature of this country even though they're very poor I think they have good heart just they need to be more opened to the rest of the world. Thanks for these pictures.

Posted by tody May 21, 09 10:04 AM

Very sad that there are so many countries in the world where the people suffer at the hands of dictators. Perhaps many of these dictators have psychological problems and don't really care about the people of their country. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with a Narcissistic Dictator!

Posted by Joe May 25, 09 12:06 PM

these pictures remind me of george orwell's 1984...big brother is watching always...t7/up!

Posted by anne borr May 25, 09 04:50 PM

Whoever is trying to justify a closed off society in whcih thousands attempt to escape annually is sick in the brain listen to the Vets, they know better.

Posted by Ben Hall May 25, 09 08:33 PM

starnge people !

Posted by arzhang May 26, 09 04:27 PM

These comments on pictures are a plain propaganda to fuel bias against north korea.Why do'nt your just put the pictures then people will come to their own conclusions.Right now your are influencing people's decision to be in your point of view.But the pictures are such a nice shot,thanks for that.

Posted by meonly May 27, 09 10:45 AM

Only vehicles belonging to the army and government are allowed on the road. Officials claim that it's to prevent pollution." #

A glimpse of our Al Gore future.

Posted by Seerak May 27, 09 04:08 PM

North Korea sucks! however it is ignorant and arrogant to say USA is a paradise. it is a paradise compared to poor countries like N. Korea, Mexico, India etc. but I've lived in Denmark and Sweden and the standard of living there is MUCH better than USA. they have healthcare for their people. millions of Americans do not have access because of the costs. if you cancer here you can go bankrupt and lose everything. there are advantages and disadvantages in every country's culture. not one is perfect.

Posted by James May 28, 09 10:02 PM

nice looking women, maybe it the underfed model look

Posted by Anonymous May 30, 09 02:11 AM

La numéro 19 est purement incroyable !!!!
La dernière également !

Posted by Mathieu May 31, 09 12:07 AM

Gorgeous photos. As terrible and complicated as their situation is, the people seem to lead a such simple and predictable life. Sometimes I'd like that for myself, in all honesty. I can see the draw of it. It's a shame a country like this can't exist without the lifestyle being forced upon its people because I'd totally live least on and off.

Posted by Jen June 8, 09 07:06 AM

oh atlast found some piks i longed for.feelin sad,u can make out their sorrow in their eyes,may be citizens,,,or may be soldiers,,,,,,too bad,,,,i condemn this condition.

Posted by arun June 8, 09 05:15 PM

An interesting observation here is that there are extremely few bald men among the north Korean. Why do men in western style societies shed their hair while the men in these societies, these environments and with these lifestyles do not? The only bald head I can see is on picture 25, and on closer examination, ah yes of course, that is not an Asian man.

Posted by Steven June 9, 09 06:05 PM

5 months ago I had a dream,we were under attack by the North Koreans, the soldiers were all over,I was hiding with my two small children under a tree,so scared,I woke up from the nightmare.

Posted by kimberly June 11, 09 05:12 PM

This message is for Posted by P-Man above,who says " North Korea just wants peace and the Leader", the pictures posted shows WAR NOT PEACE!
It's a reminder of Hitler and his army! Their was a celebaration in North Korea, the very large poster showed an US Plane with 3 large hands pushing down on the US airplane and cracking the plane in half. The USA needs to take this alittle more serious and keep the public informed! They'll wipe out South Korea and then under attack to the US.

Posted by kimberly June 11, 09 05:29 PM

May Allah bring the peace in our world. I dislike dictators, they're all same. Kim Yong Il is a Psycho, look in his face, The next Shirō Ishii.

Posted by Masud June 13, 09 09:12 AM

Those pictures r unreal..sureal...It does look like Germany under Hitler! That leader is sick..We need to change that country,,Somehow!

Posted by Stuart June 13, 09 11:53 AM

What a wonderful people with so much potential to be suppessed by a leader who is misguided by his ego. Let these people go North Korea and let them prosper.

Posted by David Burdette June 14, 09 05:21 PM


The reason there are no bald men shown in the photos is because in N. Korea once men reach a certain age (when they begin going bald), they are either not allowed out in public or they are sent to prison camps (or they "disappear" for good)! Seriously, I'm not sure that happens, but I wouldn't be surprised given that N. Korea, like all totalitarian societies, is intent on showing itself as a country of strong, beautiful, young people ready to defend the Fatherland at a moment's notice. The old, sick, and feeble have no place in such a society.

Posted by Ann June 17, 09 11:39 PM

I am from Myanmar.
Like mazier from Iran, I feel so sad.
I hope all of us posses real freedom soon.

Posted by mahar daywee June 24, 09 11:30 PM

Obviously the only way to really get a feel for the real North Korea would be by actually living there for a period of time. Yes, people are people and will find happiness in small things wherever they are and however they live. The pictures are very good - they manage to shed some light on the country which otherwise is so secretive that I have no idea of how it looks.
Someone earlier mentioned about 'soldiers' when it's men and 'female soldiers' when it's women, and classing it as sexist. If this is what they have got from this article then they are totally missing the point and focusing on the wrong thing. In a country like North Korea where they have very little human rights, do you really think sexist terminology in a US newspaper really matters ?
Thanks for the insight.

Posted by A.Pittaway June 25, 09 11:31 AM

As an American male, married to a Korean woman and knowing the beauty of the Korean culture; my heart truly breaks for the North Korean people. They have been sucked into a vaccum of control, lies, and fear. I wish that some day the two Koreas could once again be one. I dont think that it will ever happen though. It is a 21st century human tragedy.

Posted by Bob June 25, 09 10:08 PM

Probably Korean people will become free after a time. The same happened in countries from eastern Europe. At that time they will be very happy because they will have the posibility to speak free. Problem is that they will discover that is one of the few advantages of a post comunism regim. All the apropiates of actual regim will become buissness mens over the night. They will dial with foreign companes just for their intrests (they already do this) and the rest of people will be free but with no economic support, they will be simply left alone with no autorities support. After a 15-20 years of stilling some north koreans "milionares" will apear and will rulethe country in "democratic laws (what a joke!). I hope that korean people will not have the same destiny like Romania and Bulgaria but is hard to belive that will not be the same path of changes.

Posted by petru mihai June 27, 09 02:19 PM

Everything looks so neat that is hard to believe that people is suffering there! Is this country in a bad economic situation? how can they afford all those clothes for the celebrations, uniforms... much less building atomic devices? Can somebody tell me?

Posted by Somer July 9, 09 03:14 PM

One of the mild reasons they are suffering is due to the shear monotony they face. Yhey don't just practice a week or two.. many practice what they are forced to do 16 hours a day for a year!

Look up this video

It will give you an inside peek into this communist society...
The MUST CONFORM in order to be fed...
Those who actually volunteered for the military most likely went there because in fact many notrth koreans have resorted to eating bark and leaves for simple nutrients...

Posted by Trevor Dickson July 10, 09 09:30 PM

I spent over 7 years in the Republic of Korea. I am currently married to a Korean woman with a heart of gold. It is my wish as well as hers to see the Korean Pennisula become one nation again under a Democratic -elected government. I had the pleasure to see the evil side of North Korea through their weapon scopes pointed at my head. For all of you who blame the USA for everything that goes wrong in this world, I highly suggest that you pull your head out of your "A.." The true blame lies with European, Russian, Chinese, and lastly the Arabic idiots who want to see us fail. HA! Ha! keep dreaming you clueless idiots.

Posted by Mike July 11, 09 01:53 AM

The comments of North Korea being a great country and all those other ignorant, foolish comments really sadden me. Speaking as someone with uncles and their families who live in North Korea, I believe these pictures do not show the harsher side of there. Most of these are related to the military or propaganda and not pictures of common civilians, starving. Life is terrible there, with little resources *one main one being food* and dictatorship. My cousins cant even get milk to drink, or enough rice that they have to make it into a thin, diluted porridge. One of my uncles and his sons have hepatitus from an infected blood transfusion, and we have to send them medicine because they cannot get enough there. Another tragedy is that my grandfather was tricked into movoing to North Korea when it was a brand new country. The government had falsely advertisedthat it was a great place to live with comforts etc but of course that turned out false. Once agreed to live there, you cannot take back your word and you are trapped there forever. . My grandfather complained to the government after learning the true conditions in North Korea shortly after arriving, and was thrown into a prison camp of forced labor and such. He'd already sufferedfrom a stroke due to his high blood pressure, so his right arm and leg were partially paralyzed.There are no details since talking bad about North Korea ishuge crime therebut from what I heard, my grandfather wasn't given medicine for his medical conditions,and diedbecause of that and other horrifying conditions. My family there that survivedstill sendsword through letters of the shortage of money and food,and requests for us to send various neccessities. However much I wish I can do, there is no way I can support two whole families in such a famished, poverty-stricken family and it truely grieves me. I hope this account has given everyone a more realistic,personal view of what it is really like in North Korea.

Posted by Anne July 12, 09 11:56 AM

To poster 179 what the heck is wrong with trailers? Many Americans choose to live in trailers (I guess you mean mobile homes) they are well built to strict guidelines and offer a great value mostly in otherwise overpriced suburban neighborhoods. I enjoy my mobile home while I can sit back and make a good living flipping stick built homes to people who may criticize me. Please ensure you know what you are talking about before posting. I am sure anyone in NK would trade my upper middle class existence in a free country where I can dictate my own future in a 'trailer' for their controlled unfulfilling life in a communist hell anyday.

Posted by Paul July 21, 09 04:44 AM

i love korea

Posted by kavya almadi July 22, 09 03:05 PM

You people are f**king morons. Tell you what, go travel to North Korea and I'll see you in about 12 years after you're arrested and sentenced to twelve years of hard labor just for setting foot on their land. It is a sorry state in the world when people think that this country is a nice place to be.

Posted by Sam August 4, 09 09:16 AM

The bridge to no where was very interesting. The are a very 'colorful' country of brainwashed folks.

Posted by brad August 9, 09 12:15 PM

Just be glad to wake up every day.... and then be glad you can go anywhere as you please... and try not to think about how bad you have it because, you really don't when you think about these folks.

Posted by Presto33 August 10, 09 07:10 PM

I just saw a DOCUMENTARY in Los Angeles about North Korea. It was very enlightening. Escapees were interviewed living in China and South Korea.
Information: "Kimjongilia", Director/Writier: NC Heikin, 73 minutes, France/U.S.A., Green garnet Prductions LLC

Posted by George August 13, 09 04:08 PM

So, so...sad. :-( I'm from Romania, so I remember some similarities like 20 years ago...but it was never quite like that... I'm so glad that we, as a people(I was only 12 back then), made a move and turned things around... Things are far from perfect, but...seeing all this...makes me happy that I'm not there. :-S

Posted by Dorian August 16, 09 05:12 AM

Great Photos, How they united, its amazing!
I love North Korea.

Ganesh, Pudukkottai.
South India.

Posted by Ganesh M August 21, 09 03:18 PM

wow i can not imagine living there

Posted by jill September 16, 09 07:21 PM

We can learning from "The wonderwall" in Berlin Germany.
We can writing at the wall a hope for the future.

Posted by Doby Pebhiando September 17, 09 02:10 AM

We in(EXYugoslavia) were social communist country and were not even close to that.We had(almost)anything,but some were to gready and wanted kapitalism.Now he have (almost)nothing.

Posted by Aleks September 23, 09 01:37 PM




NO EMPLOYED, no education, no health

Posted by Octubre Rojo October 31, 09 09:16 PM



Posted by John November 10, 09 01:21 AM

Great Great,, luring sceneries and people still military.

Posted by rabbita November 15, 09 01:31 AM

For some reason I wanted to cry when I saw #30

Posted by heatguyj December 1, 09 02:06 AM

i like these sence

Posted by sonia casiano December 15, 09 11:23 AM

They allow women in the military in North Korea.Thats something

Posted by Dustin December 16, 09 10:21 AM

Beautiful pictures. I would like to visit North Korea someday. I wish they would let you go around and talk to the locals though.

Posted by Jamez April 28, 10 06:40 PM

Let's put it this way, they have so far kept their noses clean since, and we know that if they mess with anyone that person only needs an alliance with the enemies (mainly US and S Korea) to stop their food supply and starve to submission. It's terrible thing to do, but is simple just the same.

Posted by michael May 5, 10 05:42 PM

Guy with "balls", have you considered that in a closed communist society Eric Lafforgue would not be allowed to go to the "nasty" areas of North Korea? They monitor everything and it is highly unlikely they would let photographers and tourists go wherever they want without supervision and leave the country with photos that may show anything other than what is approved? Please use your brain, and... go to that country and see if you have the balls to face death and/ or torture.

Posted by Phoenix May 11, 10 10:27 AM

I was born and lived in Slovakia for 22 years. These pictures remind me of the old days and I am glad it chneged although I left for good anyway. Even now it is difficult for me to understand why some people do not want to admit how bad it was and they long for the old days. Slovakia was not in as bad state as North Korea is but the similarities are there. What you see in these pictures in only the outside, but what's behind it all is a huge crime on people, and on their lives. As a child I experienced bad attitude form teachers and authorities as my family was far from perfect ‘communistic family’ and with my mum's illness I suffered at school daily. The approach I had from teachers was most of the time very bad. There was shouting, raff handling and groups of kids ' excluded' from the classrooms left on display for the other kids to observe as 'problematic'. This all was thanks to the fact our parents were not 'big fans' of communism. I recieved very bad grades for my leaving exams so my carrer life was disadvantaged in the future. There was no way I could continue studying at University or continue studying further. This was the way to force people to comply with the regime. I am glad I could leave after 1989 and I created my new life in the UK where I have a beautiful home and successful career. I went to uni and study anything I can. I hope my comment can make you understand how bad it can get if some people are left completely in charge of lives others with no consequences. I am sure it is the same and much worse in North Korea.

Posted by Anna May 13, 10 10:04 AM

Well according to the Communist Manifesto, a non-Democratic country like North Korea that has a supreme leader is not a true Communist country. The Soviet Union fell into the same thing, they separated themselves from the real Communist values, and moved more towards a dictatorship.

Posted by Matthew Orlandini May 19, 10 10:03 PM

It is easy for us who are free to move from one country to another to say whatever we believe in. Koreans are not as fortunate as they happen to be born on one of the most militarily sensitive spots in World.
Chinese, Russian, Japanese and American all want them partially.
They were under the Chinese rules for a long long time and then Japan. Only Russian wasn't strong enough back then otherwise them too would have a significant role in distroying Korea. If you were North Korean leader, what will you do? Welcome the US and have Russian and Chinese poke their spears at your ribcage for generations to come?

Posted by nirnam June 2, 10 08:28 PM

It's funny how everyone thinks that the true form of communisim is what Karl Marx thought or Stalin or sung Chavez or mao they were NOT communist they were dictators the true pure communisim removes all that shit and eventually all this democracy will break Down and people will accept that pure communisim is the only way once greed and power is eliminated.

Posted by Pure communist June 5, 10 06:36 AM

is all north korean only "one" job?

Posted by suswagata banerjee June 23, 10 11:43 AM

I grew up in USSR, and NK looks simmilar if to compare propaganda and militarization. We did not had jeans, adidas shoes, or hi-fi stereo recorders, but we had cheap food, alcohol, petrol. NK does not have cheap oil or even elecricity, so I can imagine how hard it is to keep country under controll... Their propaganda agencies must work really much to add some value for Nation. But I believe in Korea.

Posted by Jurgis June 28, 10 04:46 PM

I am from Slovenia. Ex Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia and Slovenia was perhaps the most developed socialist country. Slovenian quality of life was similar to Western Europe the only difference was that we had lower porches power. In the 80s the purchase power declined even further. And the economic system was not able to maintain the purchase power people want. So Yugoslavia collapsed in terrible nationalistic wars.

Yugoslavia was perhaps the most "free" of all the socialist countries but remember there was not freedom. Freedom come again in Slovenia in 1990. Now we are in EU with the EURO as a currency.

A lot of people e.g. my mother (a worker no education) was not abele to adapt to the new economy system. Thanks God she has a pension of approx 400-500€. My Father (mechanic & metal worker) with experience in Western Europe (BMW, AUDI, MAN etc) has adapted to the system relatively quickly.

From this prospective if freedom comes in North Korea there will be chaos. I really do not know what is better for them. Perhaps a step by step democratization with foreign aid.

Poor people. I am realy sorry for them.

Posted by Andrej Zigante July 2, 10 09:20 AM

Well i was Reading some of these comments and how some people appreciate its government just by looking at pictures that show they are "happy". They are just making a statement with the photos that they have approved to leave their country. It shows they are happy but its no way near. I watched a video of north korean people who were blind but were "magically healed" because of the leaders. everytime the bandages were taken off they would praise the picture of the past leaders who died without completely removing the bandages.
When i looked at all of the people who had treatment, they still had bandages on their faces, every single one of them.
It didn't say anything about it or why they didn't remove it but my belief was because they weren't told to do so, and so they left it until then.
These people are so controlled on everything they do and some people don't really look like they praise the leaders, but more that they were afraid if they don't something could happen to them.
these people are living in fear and its not a good thing like some of the people who commented think so.
well the pictures are fantastic but they are fake not real. Im not saying they were made up but im talking about the feelings in them aren't real

Posted by anonymous July 2, 10 08:57 PM

I hate communism and NK, but I would like to visit NK. It's the only place you can see military parades and "mass games" anywhere nowadays. NK should open up tourism more so people can see these things ... there would be quite a market for it ;)

Posted by Sam July 14, 10 11:47 PM

Excllent photos. I am Russian and I see how close North Korean life to what it used to be in the Soviet Union, particularly in the Stalinnist times and after the war. Although... late Soviet authorities still did a lot more for the people and life was indeed imporving in 60's-80's. At the same time, there is resemblence of grey clothes, empty street and "confined/ controlled environment".
Here I see a horrible ideology-driven slavery and disadvantaged people. At the same time, they are propably very nice as peop,e go, and terribly brainwashed/ incapacitated-- very familiar for me comparing to the Soviet timke. Of course Russia suffered as a result of the collapse of the Soviet system, but I do not want to go back, even close to what North Korea is now.

Posted by Anonymous July 21, 10 06:04 AM

for everyone who apparently thinks North Korea is doing just fine and everybody who lives there is just peachy...
They have no freedom, can't speak their minds, have been so systematically brainwashed they might not have anything to say even if they could, are led by a mentally ill tyrant,can't ever leave, face execustion and decades in prison for any infraction, and have had to sit by and watch their children starve to death because the bulk of the goods go to the army. It's a nightmare. It's 1984. Maybe they'd fight back if they weren't starving and terrified.

Posted by habibbi July 24, 10 07:52 AM

For further reading i highly recommend 'This is Paradise! - My North Korean Childhood' by Hyok Kang, it's one of the few books written by an escaped north korean and provides a rare window into day-to-day life under the oppressive regime people endure in NK. Just google it, the above comments about north koreans somehow being happier than the rest of the world couldnt be more wrong.

Posted by Bob NL August 10, 10 08:31 AM

sigh the ignorance of Americans never ceases to amaze me
lets start with the obvious Hitler wasnt a communist, he was a Nazis who actually went to war with Stalins Communist Russia (WW2), oh by the way North Korea is commonly refered to as a STALINist regime. so when people are seeing "Hitler in the background" gah.. STALIN not HITLER oh and just to be clear im not saying Hitler was any good iether but if you going to comment get your facts straight.
as for the guy who thinks were all waiting for ameirca to fail... no thats not it at all were just waiting for you to grow up and realize ther rest of the world isnt you so get used to it, the rest of the world was here first.
lastly N Korea will eventually collapse but right now weve still got China proping it up because they dont want the american army thats sitting in Japan and S Korea to wind up sitting on their border, and speaking as a British/Canadian i dont blame them your border cant even figure out what a British passport is.

Posted by someguy August 10, 10 04:17 PM

Imaginile sunt foarte interesante si tocmai acest comunist aproape pur (cu o puritate mult mai mare decat cel din Cuba) ar putea fi un atu pentru Coreea de Nord, in privinta atragerii turistilor dornici de ceva nou, original si aflat departe de tiparele obisnuite oferite deja de catre alte tari care anual primesc un flux insemnat de turisti. Prabusirea comunismului in Coreea de Nord nu este deloc recomandabila, deoarece s-ar produce un haos poate de 100 de ori mai mare decat in Romania. Nord-coreenii nu vor putea sa se adapteze acestor schimbari brutale, nu vor putea sa faca o reconversie asa cum au facut albanezii, care si ei au avut dur comunism.

Posted by Dan August 27, 10 05:30 PM

The country seems so orderly and peaceful in contrast to many western countries that are full of pollution and crimes and what not. Sure they may not have glittering buildings or malls but I am sure they have never heard of recession either. Now I see the proganda of calling it an impoverish state is from west because they are jealous of it.

Posted by RR September 30, 10 12:15 PM

Living in any society, where you cannot trust anyone else creates paranoia and total mistrust of every human being. This has got to be the ultimate and most clever mind control ever put into place... Since you trust no one, you do not attempt to overthrow or suggest any changes to the Government. It is the same issue that happen in Nazi Germany and Stalinst Russia.

Unfortunately when, not if, but when North Korea collapases, it will not be similiar to the unification of Germany. It will take multiple Generations to incorpate the North Koreans into the South Korean society..

PS Avoid reading crap like 270, which is wrriten obviously by the NKPR.

Posted by JeffinAZ October 5, 10 03:13 PM

I was a VN boatpeople in 1978's. I live in the State now. It's really hell if I think about living back in VN after the commies took over Saigon in 1975. We had house and rices - they took all and said these for the poor and revolution people???. We were young and they sent us to Cambodia or South China border for fighting or frankly speaking : human shield and they said the nation needs us??? - Notice: first they confisticate our rices and then they said they're proud of us in the battle front. Our old women and young kids were sent to remote land - they said Saigon is not the place for South VN republic people and forget the name Saigon - all now called HCM City. We have had to escape from our own country because we wanted and always want to live in the Western regardless how lonely, hardship we will face and then we got a warm welcome from the Western (Western means including Iraq, Iran, India, Isreal and all Islamic countries but commies). Then we have got our own ID, free talk, free speakout, free TV viewing, free vote, free practice art, free assembly in any party not worry about police harrasment. Until now, thousand VN're trying illegally escape to the Western thru 1000 ways (marry, visa worker, visa student, exchange student, false relative name it) just because we want to be free, free, free. Notice: until now !!!.
Now, does any thing like bad economy meaning to us??? - Nope!
Because we've got everything now even we live in the bad city in the Western. That is the true opinion of an asian refugee from an asian commies country.

Posted by NCL October 10, 10 07:15 AM

these are lovely pictures from north

Posted by james pugh October 12, 10 07:13 AM

Although it represents only a part of North Korea, I think I do not like to live in this country

Posted by Anonymous October 13, 10 04:27 AM

To all you posters that like NK - you who never lost their liberty will want to get rid of it. It's a responsibility and a burden. But human nature deteriorates without liberty - it's in human nature to have it even if you don't know about it

They live like chickens - don't know why and what - they get fed and they get drink and then they die. And the once that wake up - get eliminated in early stages by the same "chickens". I know I was one of the chickens.

Posted by Soviet November 1, 10 01:25 PM

This is very much like the movie "Island", where people have no idea of the outside world.

This may limit development, since all are concentrating only on one view.

Anyway, nice pictures!

Posted by Pinoy November 11, 10 08:45 PM

I'm an American currently residing in South Korea. No, I'm not a part of the military. I know an American in a previous comment mentioned he and his Korean wife want a re-unification under a Democratic State. However, I am yet to meet any Korean here that wants a re-unification. South Koreans pity the North Koreans. There's no hate, except the hate geared towards the North Korean dictator. A re-unification would mean rebuilding a very poor North Korean economy that already has few resources. The currency would deflate. South Korea is developed and wealthy, North Korea is not.

If you honestly think North Korea is the good life, then feel free to move there. Remember, you will never have the freedom to return because they take it away. All the freedom that you have now to travel around the world...kiss it goodbye. You can't even visit China! All the humanitarian aid that is sent to North Korea goes only to the North Korean Army. People are starving there. How can you not see that? Look back at the North Korean solder that is smiling. Do you notice how ridiculously skinny he is? That is considered a "well fed" person in North Korea. I can only imagine what the average North Korean looks like without the baggy clothes on.

Last but not least, remember, the man that took these photos was checked before leaving. In other words, he could only keep certain pictures. Look at the testimonies of anyone that toured North Korea. They dictate what you can and cannot see. Obviously, this is as good as it gets. If this is as good as it gets, I certainly don't want to see more! This is awful! You are forced to do everything in life. You are starving. You have no car. You have no toys. How about washing your clothes in the nearby river for the rest of your life?! This is not a good life and I pity the people that have to live there.

Posted by Jessie November 21, 10 12:42 AM

So the North is what you would refer to as Stalinist rather then Communist.
semantics - not a big difference that I see and in both cases only the leaders do well and the people suffer.

I spent a short time in the orient and did get to know some people in South Korea. Married a girl from there.

don't think they miss what they don't know, a few still manage to escape across the border just like in the old days of East and West Germany.

families still have to go through the pain of separation - imagine not being able to see your relatives because they are on the other side of a border

Posted by Jim November 21, 10 01:31 PM

What a complete craphole. I am Canadian, and our country along with my American neighbors to the south, put crapholes like NK to shame.

Go live there if you like it so much. Lets see, I have a very good education, work hard and am rewarded with a very good standard of living. My wife, my children our parents my siblings all have great lives. Heck I even own my own airplane. I ski on weekends in the winter and vacation where ever I want in the the summer.

The only way one could do that in NK is by probably being a General and having to kill a few people along the way.

The sooner NK collapse the better. And I dont have to line up to by milk every 10 Sunday. Just have to stop by the corner store. Central "Planning" Juche, What a complete load of garbage.

Posted by Johhny November 23, 10 10:34 PM

What are they guarding? START THE FREAKIN WAR! I am pity for North Koreans, for the one's whit lot of dreams, for the one's thirsty for knowledge and for manny others making no exceptions of the childrens wich is highly predictible they all are the same. I ask a simple question: how manny NK kids cry in a day? % Living in a commie regime isnt pleasant at all. They are proud to be very conservative wich sometimes only is good, in such regime all have manny sick bastards, i mean the lowest society progenitures, these regime's cover them up. Pedofil's and criminals of all kinds. Commie regime's grow hate and hunger so i am pity for anyone else who contradicts whit me. The world need's a global organization of bringing all countries to a floating point before talkin about freedom and human right! I would fight for the thought of knowing that any child is safe no matter the place on this planet! They are so well instructed! I wonder what are they guarding so well, im sure its not the poor living. :) All good in peace! Ciao!

Posted by Alexandru November 25, 10 01:41 PM

Who is the balding white guy in photo 25 ?

Posted by Ben November 28, 10 12:33 AM

pacat ca este o tara frumoasa si am vazut o gramada de tineri frumos care trebuie sa moara din prostia conducatorilor lor prosti

Posted by ion marius November 28, 10 12:01 PM

What a crazy way of life?I am just amaze how the government controls everything. They need a change, they must have freedom. How can you live without knowing the rest of the world. When will this rubbish stop?Please somebody do something!!WAR?

Posted by Mauricio November 29, 10 09:25 AM

I watched a documentary the other day on North Korea and if one of your family members in NK goes missing (as in, escaped from the border) the family then gets sent to the Concentration Camps there oAo; One guy managed to escape to SK and he and his friend were supposed to cross electric wire fences over the NK border... he managed to escape but his friend didn't... he left his family behind and because he did that (he was a soldier), his family got taken away. He didn't want to talk about it but assuming they had said that earlier in the program, it's just sad.

I don't like the way society is in NK and I feel pity towards those people. :C People who don't live in the capital are even off worse because they barely have any aid at all and they don't have education. They live in run-down places and food and water are scarce.

I was watching a National Geographic undercover story of what NK society was like so if you're interested, you can find it on youtube by just searching North Korea up.

I hope North Korea's government gets taken down someday and that the people can return to having better opportunities.. at least if they try hard enough... I hope South Korea could have pity towards the normal citizens (and not the government) and someday make amends with them >A

Posted by Anonymous November 30, 10 07:03 PM

The pictures are so amazing, and very sad; inaddition, I also find it very sad to see that when I was looking into the eyes of the individuals in the photos, that there was no life in their eyes. To see how thin everyone was, with exception of the leader of course. In America people protest just to protest because their never happy no matter who is in office. I think the people in North Korea would fall over and die if they actually saw how the American people are. At the same time I think they would say to themselves I wish I could do that. To live in a life that you are brainwashed into thinking everyone outside of the country is evil, and you have no freedom to make your own choices. Then to know at anytime you could end up in hard labor camps for the slightest infraction. I don't know how there isn't massive suicides, unless of course we don't hear about it. They don't have religion, so it's not like it is a sin. In reality would you believe in a God if you had to live like that? I also really don't believe that all of these people are brainwashed into thinking their leader is great. At the same time they know not to show it out of fear. Americans take so much for granted, and so many are so selfish. I think those who are selfish, need to take a look at pictures like these, and just be thankful for what WE have as Americans. It is so sad to see the power this one man has over that country. I never see the country getting reformed (as one posted above my comment), yet we can hope. I don't know though that they would really no how to survive. After being told your whole life how to live, plus generations before you.

Posted by Heidi December 8, 10 11:03 AM

Great pictures!! Reminds me so much of Albania.

Posted by Albert December 9, 10 08:20 PM

THANK GOD for men like abraham lincoln and george washington and for the good old U.S.of A.Pray for the people of N. Korea and thank God that you don't live there.

Posted by Don E. December 13, 10 02:25 AM

The sickest country in the world ,and yes some people in USA take for granted our freedom,

Posted by Fidel December 19, 10 07:26 AM

Será que os cubanos, venezuelanods, bolivianos tem esta oportunidade que os brasileiros tem de VER e saber como será nosso futuro?
MENOS AS ESTRADAS, OU OS ESPAÇOS ENTRE AS EDIFICAÇÕES, É CLARO, pois de favelas e cortiços nós todos entendemos muito bem.

Posted by elias scalco February 16, 11 07:20 AM


Posted by LIVIU February 22, 11 02:03 PM

I think that stupidity and universe has no limit !!,if you want to know what is a comunist regime ,yeah !! go ahead ,go to North Korea and if you have a chance go to Cuba too, is amazing those posts !!

Posted by F.Garcia February 27, 11 08:49 AM

we should eliminate every North Korean

Posted by George March 13, 11 11:21 PM

I love how North Korea is like a time capsule of the mid 20th century.
It's a shame that the people there have little-to-no individualistic freedom,
but is seems as though (through these obvious propaganda photo's) that they are a tightly knit society.

I can't possibly imagien what life is like inside North Korea, but these pictures say a lot.

I do agree with some of the people on here calling to show more of the impoverished side of NK, however I'm sure it's virtually impossible for a foreign photographer to get to these places without being detained.

All-in-all, Amazing photography.
These are beautiful propaganda photos.

Posted by Andrew March 24, 11 01:17 PM

where are the human rights
people are dying there from illness and poverty
they don't even know that the man reached the moon
they have no freedom and may be they don't know the mean of freedom

Posted by sama sahab April 5, 11 04:58 PM

Many thanks to Mr. Eric for displaying the photos of North Korea. I came to know the pitiable condition of the people and the country.

Posted by Ramesh Thapa (Kathmandu, Nepal) April 30, 11 06:45 AM

I saw that someone commented on the fact that Arabic numerals is used in North Korea. First of all I must point out that it would be hard to not use them in the world of today. Secondly, communism was a revolutionary thing at the time and most communists had a more open mind than most. Then Leninism struck and nothing has happened since the beginning of North Korea. To sum it all up, the fact that they use Arabic numerals might be because of the modern thinking communists had at first, or "back in the days". Now it's all a corrupt state with total stagnation.

Posted by Blå Kocken May 14, 11 12:45 PM
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