Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A view into North Korea
December 1, 2010 7:14 AM   Subscribe

This flickr user collection offers a look into North Korea, complete with translations of propaganda murals and cultural background on the images, plus two collections of old postcards.
posted by filthy light thief (28 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
I first saw this gallery on MetaChat (thanks BoringPostcards!), and when I went to post it, found that the gallery was previously posted in a deleted thread as the bonus material to the Vice Guide to North Korea. The other bonus material was another travelogue from an American's trip to North Korea.

Related: On the Spot with Kim Jong-il, the Big Picture collection of North Korea-approved Kim Jong-il publicity photos.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:16 AM on December 1, 2010


I saw this on MetaChat, and it's incredible — much better than most of the North Korea photo collections that circulate online.

I'm really curious how he gets these pictures. Many are from outside Pyongyang and seem to imply more access than is typically granted to visitors. Several people have asked him about this in the comments on the photos and he has somewhat pointedly not answered.
posted by enn at 7:21 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


the DPRK has a short time to live.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:28 AM on December 1, 2010


Typically, forced labourers are tired and demotivated, so they just hang around the construction site chatting and trying to dodge the hard and dirty work.

Tell me about it.
posted by DU at 7:30 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also related: Kim Jong-Il Looking At Things.

There's some overlap with the Big Picture feature, but it does have "Kim Jong-Il looking at generals", "Kim Jong-Il looking over there" and "Kim Jong-Il looking at Kim Jong-Un".
posted by WalterMitty at 7:37 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does the sun ever shine there? And I don't be mean metaphorically. Every picture I have ever seen of North Korea is bleak as hell.
posted by milarepa at 7:46 AM on December 1, 2010


This collection of North Korean propaganda posters may also be related. They're excerpts from this book.
posted by Shesthefastest at 7:48 AM on December 1, 2010


I caught a bit of that TV show where some brahs brah their way around the world--I have no idea what it's called (hey, Google knows!)--and in this particular episode, they were in North Korea. The commentary was glowing with praise. It was all around icky.

I guess in order to be allowed into the country at all, let alone with a camera crew for a travelogue show, one has to make some compromises, but that voiceover was downright cuckoo for NoKo puffs.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 AM on December 1, 2010


the DPRK has a short time to live.

Especially the P part.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:49 AM on December 1, 2010


Does the sun ever shine there? And I don't be mean metaphorically. Every picture I have ever seen of North Korea is bleak as hell.

The photos were mostly taken in early spring
posted by KokuRyu at 7:55 AM on December 1, 2010


Here, old women are producing road material by breaking up lumps of rock with tiny hammers. Seen in Sonchon County.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:56 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are great. And definitely amazing that he got all these pictures of Hamhung in 2009 (from the dates of the photos). Koryo tours just recently started doing tours to that city in 2010. Maybe he works for an NGO or something? I know Hamhung got hit pretty bad during the famines.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:58 AM on December 1, 2010


It does seem like a defining characteristic of stalinist dictatorships is poor landscaping.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 8:02 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm struck mostly by how deserted it seems, though that could just be a sample bias or the fact that the weather's gloomy, but it seems like nothing is happening.

Also, it looks like the subway shares rolling stock with the Berlin U-Bahn, though perhaps not, as the door handles look slightly different. /transportation obsession
posted by hoyland at 8:06 AM on December 1, 2010


Ironmouth: "the DPRK has a short time to live."

From your lips to God's ears.
posted by jquinby at 8:13 AM on December 1, 2010


Required DPRK reading: Axis of Evil World Tour
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does the sun ever shine there? And I don't be mean metaphorically. Every picture I have ever seen of North Korea is bleak as hell.

The first four pictures in the flickr collection were taken in bright sunshine. And, they are bleak as hell.
posted by longsleeves at 8:17 AM on December 1, 2010


Yeah, it just seems bleak no matter what. Maybe it's the subject matter, but every picture I have ever seen-here and elsewhere-is just incredibly bleak.
posted by milarepa at 8:20 AM on December 1, 2010


> the DPRK has a short time to live.

What is "short", though? I'm no expert, but I think that everything else being equal it has at least another generation left in it. My predictions: there will be more flare ups in the near future, and maybe some nasty exchanges. But if they pop off a successful nuke test they are going to get a lot more aid than they're getting now, and will stay afloat. The Kim in the pipeline will not be able to keep the same grip on the internal power base as his father and grandfather, and cracks in the periphery will form that will allow much more outside influence to work. After Kim-Jong-Un, it will probably be a pure military junta with a parliamentary figurehead.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:36 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


enn: I'm really curious how he gets these pictures. Many are from outside Pyongyang and seem to imply more access than is typically granted to visitors.

One set was shot from a car, as explained in the set description, but the rest are more mysterious. It looks like some were taken on a tour, as the people pictured are guides, though some people don't seem so posed.

WinnipegDragon: Required DPRK reading: Axis of Evil World Tour

I linked to that as an American's trip to North Korea, which was found on the deleted thread.

posted by filthy light thief at 8:54 AM on December 1, 2010


Not sure if this has been posted before, but here's another North Korea set from Eric Lafforgue.
posted by carter at 9:17 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice post btw!
posted by carter at 9:17 AM on December 1, 2010


It does seem like a defining characteristic of stalinist dictatorships is poor landscaping.

Ideologically speaking, that's good ol' Marxist Mehrprodukt. Landscaping would be surplus product. Or, more accurately, it would be a burden requiring surplus product (resources such as fresh water and labour, for which there are myriad more productive uses) to sustain it. North Korea doesn't have enough necessary product, let alone enough surplus to green up the countryside. Also, Versailles much?

Realistically speaking, however, it's clearly late autumn in those photos, which would make any country look like a post-apocalyptic moonscape. (Southern Ontario don't look so hot either right now.)

Plus, seared into our collective unconscious are a couple of washed-out video reels from 1989 (Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall), and we may have a tendency to superimpose all the asphalt and concrete of those two very specific locales onto all things capital-c Communist--not to mention the miles and miles of stock 'scary foreigners marching in formation' footage that's a seemingly requisite part of every news story making mention, however tangentially, of a People's Republic.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are really amazing and depressing - thank you for sharing. And for all the other links people posted.
posted by slackdog at 11:01 AM on December 1, 2010


From Carter's link, the sun does shine (even with snow on the ground), and cherry trees blossom.

Thanks for that gallery, Carter. Beautiful shots, and interesting insight (I didn't realize as a visitor, you had two escorts at all times).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:16 AM on December 1, 2010


Plus, seared into our collective unconscious are a couple of washed-out video reels from 1989 (Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall), and we may have a tendency to superimpose all the asphalt and concrete of those two very specific locales onto all things capital-c Communist--not to mention the miles and miles of stock 'scary foreigners marching in formation' footage that's a seemingly requisite part of every news story making mention, however tangentially, of a People's Republic.

The architectural language of Communism (well, Soviet-influenced Marxism-Leninism) seems to be somewhat universal. Take some of those photos of Pyongyang, add a few caf├ęs, fixies and Mac repair shop ads and you have East Berlin.
posted by acb at 3:03 AM on December 2, 2010


I think the bleak-ness of the photos, and of every set of photos I've ever seen from North Korea, stems from the total lack of advertising, and the color that it usually adds to a location. The fact that a landscape looks flat and lifeless without it, well, I'm not sure if that says something about them, or something about us.
posted by AbnerDoon at 4:43 AM on December 2, 2010


I think the bleak-ness of the photos, and of every set of photos I've ever seen from North Korea, stems from the total lack of advertising, and the color that it usually adds to a location. The fact that a landscape looks flat and lifeless without it, well, I'm not sure if that says something about them, or something about us.

Not just advertising; civil life as well. One can imagine villages somewhere that aren't plastered with consumer-goods ads but have the artefacts of being lived in by free people, the sense that, at some point, someone would have laughed or flirted or exchanged jovial banter there. North Korea doesn't give this impression: it's a sterile machine, inhabited by humans who have been reduced to wretched slaves; a world where nothing happens except by order.
posted by acb at 7:35 AM on December 3, 2010


« Older In defense of Simply Red. A look at Mick Hucknall,...  |  Wall Of Paul.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments