The most intimate look into one of the world’s most secretive nations.
Going into North Korea is the equivalent of venturing into the belly of the beast.
There’s so much we hear about the self-styled rogue nation that it’s hard to separate fact from hearsay. How do we know what’s being reported in the DPRK is illegitimate and what is fake news?
A huge part of this is down to the country’s self-imposed exile from the world stage, the only accounts we hear are from those who escape the regime which has been under the totalitarian dictatorship of their ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong-un.
However, in the past few decades the country as opened its doors up to authorised tourists and sections of the media (all under the government’s watchful eye of course).
While most speculate as to what’s going on politically and are more interested in North Korea’s military clout, there are those who have a different interest in the rouge nation.
One such person is Aram Pan, a photographer from Singapore. He’s been going back and forth to the communist country countless times now and is somewhat an expert on the North Korean lifestyle.
A big factor in what makes his photography standout is the nuanced approach of the people in his photographs.
Away from the politics and threats of ‘all-out-war’, he brings forward the ‘ordinary people’ of North Korea. Yes they maybe brainwashed/subjugated in the regime’s dogma but they’re are still ordinary folks at heart.
These are people who like to dance, go to the beach and have a night out in a theme park. They’re school kids (to be educated in the benefits of communism no doubt) and workers making their nine-to-five commute.
Speaking to online photography magazine THEME he said:
I find the people are simple, hardworking and friendly. Children and young people are always curious of foreigners and will readily interact with you.
Pan himself has a weird affection for North Korea, in the past few years he’s been there he’s expanded his experience beyond photography.
He’s now started to produce 360 videos and VR tours so you yourself can get a first-hand impression of North Korea. It is the closest anyone will get to the ‘North Korean’ experience.
Before venturing into the DPRK for the first time he says:
…my impression of them was that everybody there were brainwashed drones who were ready to go to war at the drop of a hat.
However, during that first visit he found out that ‘There’s a lot going on … that the world doesn’t see’. That’s not to say that the regime and its leader shouldn’t be held responsible for the numerous human rights atrocities that they have committed.
What it does mean is that if we look beyond the ‘constant news of imminent war’ we’ll find that there’s more to the country than its nefarious reputation will have you believe.
Pan goes onto say that the:
Ordinary stuff that goes on in everyday life doesn’t make the news. My project captures the mundane, everyday things around the country.
When you can see the North Korean people for who they really are, then you’ll realize like I have that they are not much different from us and given the chance, would much rather not go to war and just continue quietly with their daily life.
This weekend the North Korean government held a huge military parade in preparation for the test launch of one their supposed Nuclear missiles.
However, since then, it’s been reported that a day after the parade their test launched failed. Also people on Twitter have been questioning the legitimacy of their missiles on display.