An inside look at North Korea


This week, a London tourist has illustrated the power a picture holds by giving a face to the people living in the world’s most restrictive country — North Korea.

Amateur photographer Michal Huniewicz posted two sets of photographs on his blog documenting his time in North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang.

The pictures have been shared on his Facebook, Twitter, a variety of Instagram accounts and new sites such as CNN.

The significance of these smuggled photos comes from the strict rules governing tourist photography in North Korea. The bulk images and videos the public sees are products of the government.

While the majority of Huniewicz’s photos were acceptable, he admitted that some were taken against the wishes of his guides or as he calls them, his “government minders.”

The timing of the photos release could not be more perfect. Recently, North Korea has been receiving more news media attention than usual as it continues to develop its nuclear program and face sanctions from the United Nations. It is crucial now more than ever that the rest of the world grasp that behind Kim Jong-un, there are millions of helpless people.

In a culture where criticism of society’s growing news media dependence is often harsh, Huniewicz’s collection shows how powerful a tool it is, particularly social media. It shows that we cannot take for granted the ability to freely capture and share photos. It is a tool that helps protect against the human rights violations that are rampant in North Korea.

Furthermore, North Korea may be one of the few places in the world where everyday life has been practically untouched by the outside media. Huniewicz’s photographs and his accompanying narrative help to better show the restrictions of life living under a dictatorship. Censorship was rampant during his trip and Huniewicz’s noted that many of the sights felt staged.

“You have to be fast. Soon we noticed that while Pyongyang is meant to be a utopian showcase for foreign visitors … there are more glamorous bits, and there are less glamorous bits. What’s more, our mute driver was perfectly aware of this, so he would conveniently slow down whenever the surroundings were impressive, and speed up whenever they were less pleasant, to make them less pleasant,” Huniewicz wrote on his blog.

The majority of Huniewicz’s photos are scenes from everyday life that have the eerie look of being performed. Tour groups are not allowed to go anywhere, or even be left alone, without their guides. And it seems as though everyone is in on the act.

For more of Huniewicz’s collection of photos from all his travels, visit his website.