Pictures from my first trip to North Korea

This summer I went to North Korea. Actually, I planned a trip to North Korea with Refuga. It was a big, weird and interesting experience. I’ve been lucky to do a few interesting trips over the last few years, but this is one of the trips that I most often think back to. It’s very difficult to describe how it was, but it was so mysterious and weird, that it’s very often in my mind.

While the fact that the country is so closed and there is so much talk about it in the media, it’s natural that you build this weird picture of the country in your head. I’ve heard from quite a few who traveled there, that the trip normalized the country a bit for them, or at least de-mystified it. For me, it’s completely the opposite. I’m more confused than ever.

I’ve written a post over at Refuga about the trip and the story behind planning it. Check it out here.

You can discuss for days the ethics about going to North Korea. It’s a complicated discussion, but my conclusion has been and is: It was an amazing trip, I would go again and I would recommend others to go.

Here are a few of my pictures from the trip:

We took the train from Beijing overnight to the North Korean border. After a few hours check of baggage and visas, we continued with another train for 5 hours. Here we had our first North Korean meal, together with a lot of koreans who had been over the border.

After arriving in Pyongyang, we met up with our guides and took a small walk around the city center. You might notice this square from the big gatherings you see in tv. Notice the lines and dots on the ground, it’s where people who to stand and walk under the parades, mass dances etc.

The view from the hotel room.

A North Korean beer. Pretty good actually.

A small flower shop. You see very, very few shops around in general.

The Pyongyang subway, where tourists are only allowed to take it a few stops.

In many places there are people doing work, you normally wouldn’t see in other countries. Even though they have traffic lights, there will be a person directing the traffic too. In the subway too, there are people managing people getting on and off. The stops we saw of the subway had many of the wall pieces, motivating people to work hard for the country, on their way to work.

The whole week, we were together with our two guides and our driver and we went a lot around the country. Roads were always super empty, but very wide. Seems like they are just built for military.

In the northern part of the country, we went out for a small hike.

It was super hot, so we took a small swim in a mountain lake.

Everywhere we had meals, we were normally alone and there was so much food. Like absurdly much.

Traditional NK clothing that you get from the state. There are a lot of things you don’t buy, but get from the state, like for example toothbrushes.

A view out over a residential area in Pyongyang.

It’s not a country lacking big statues and monuments.

Close the border to the South. There is a lot of these posters/wall pieces trying to gather people around being anti-US and working hard for leaders.

The view over to South Korea. Last year I was on the other side. It’s so incredible to imagine that there is only around 70 km to one of the most modern cities in the World, Seoul, from here.

A big monument when coming back into Pyongyang, symbolizing both Koreas connecting again.

As mentioned earlier, there is quite a few big monuments.

It was possible to send an email from the hotel. You had to pay around 5$ and an employee would connect the computer and open a very old Outlook client. All guests sends from the same email address, so you could skim through a lot of interesting replies.

North Koreans have to show respect to the leaders all the time. They all have to wear a small pin on their chest with the leader’s faces.

We visited a big science center, which had over 5000 computers (which I believe, there was a lot). We were told everyone could come an study here, but we only saw around 20 people in total. They had a big book selection, but some very weird titles. I saw a book about Scandinavian home design, which I don’t think is so relevant for many people in NK.

Reception of a big glass factory.

We were told this is the biggest glass factory in the country with over 1000 employees. This day, there was around 8 people working.

The main library of Pyongyang, where they had computers where you could find the location of books. We found a few titles from the famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

Trying to put in a bit of sleep in a study break :)


Originally published at Nikolaj Astrup.

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