On his recent trip to North Korea, London-based photographer Michael Huniewicz has risked detention to smuggle a series of stunning images of everyday life taken in the most mysterious country on the planet,as there are strict guidelines in place dictating what tourists can and cannot do in North Korea — and that includes photography.
He went to North Korea from China last year and travelled with a tour guide – one of the conditions of being allowed a visit.
Huniewicz evaded his minder’s watchful eye to take these photographs, which give a unique glimpse into North Koreans’ everyday lives.Some are pictured working in the fields, while others are seen working in the squeaky-clean capital, Pyongyang.
Pyongyang seems like an ordinary city, although quite extrordinarily clean and not very loud or busy.
Once at the hotel, the tour guides confiscated Huniewicz’s and his fellow tour members’ passports.
Huniewicz recounted the experience: “Our North Korean guide said, ‘Because you no longer have your passports, you will not be allowed to walk on your own, since if you are wounded in a car accident, hospital staff will not know who you are.’”
3.Alcatraz of Fun
Huniewicz stayed at the Yanggakdo Hotel, where most tours put up Western visitors during their time in Pyongyang. The Yanggakdo is situated on an island in the Taedong River, and hotel guests cannot leave the island on their own. The island has been appropriately dubbed the “Alcatraz of Fun.”
3.Is your hotel room being monitored?
At the Yanggakdo, there is no elevator button for the fifth floor. The mystery surrounding this hidden hotel floor has sparked rumors that the fifth floor is dedicated to monitoring “hotel rooms via video and phone taps.”
5.You see what they want you to see
While touring the city, Huniewicz and his fellow tour group members were not allowed to walk anywhere without their tour guides.
The tour bus driver, however, was courteous enough to slow down whenever he felt that “the surroundings were impressive.” Likewise, he hit the gas whenever they drove through less impressive areas, just in case one of the passengers was trying to snap an unflattering photo of Pyongyang.
There was even a sense of unease while eating meals.
“The waitresses serving us often seemed a little terrified,” Huniewicz said.
All North Koreans sport one signature accessory: a “leadership loyalty badge.” These obligatory badges feature portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un.
9.Snapping illegal photos
In a split-second rebellious decision, Huniewicz snuck off to snap a photo of this off-limits grocery store, and it’s hard to ignore the nearly-empty shelves. Huniewicz noted that an apple cost about 5 dollars, which may help explain why malnutrition has stunted millions of North Koreans’ growth.
Socialism supports sport activities, especially the team ones, to build a sense of community. Here, a group of people playing volleyball at the Kim Il-sung Square.
11.Nothing humorous about the communist country
Huniewicz quickly realized that there was nothing humorous about the communist country.
“You see, when I thought of going to North Korea, I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face seeing all that absurdity all around,” Huniewicz said. “But when you actually are in North Korea, it’s just not funny. It’s utterly horrible.”
There were many guides in the shop. Some of the guides was watching over us inside, another making sure we don’t leave the shop.