Archive: North Korea
How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Every year, North Korea holds a lavish and extravagant celebration for its ruler known as the Arirang celebrations. The Arirang celebrations can be classified in the same category as the Olympic celebrations. The audience is always treated to a highly choreographed show, the likes of which have only ever been seen at the Olympics.

The Arirang celebrations are a combination of dance, music, art, and patriotism, performed by tens of thousands of gymnasts and dancers. Not many people have ever photographed the Arirang celebrations, but French photojournalist Phillipe Chancel has. The Arirang festivities depict a well-known Korean song by the same name. The Arirang song tells the tale of a young couple that is forcibly torn apart. In this case, the song refers to the division of North and South Korea.

Over the past 20 years, Phillipe Chancel has been taking photographs in North Korea that explore the complex, shifting and ever-growing territory where art, photojournalism, and documentary meet. Phillipe is constantly evolving and so are his projects. His Arirang series focuses on the images that world is confronted with when they do an internet search of North Korea versus what actually happens in the state of North Korea. His photographs of the Arirang festivals offer audiences an unparalleled and uncontrolled image of a tainted version of North Korea.

Most of Chancel’s photographs feature dancers at the festival who move in such a synchronized and uniform fashion that from a distance, it appears as if you are watching the transitions on a TV screen. The Arirang festival offered Chancel some of the best visual materials for the photographic series, which he also titled Arirang.

Not only did pictures of the festival give an enhanced understanding of life in Pyongyang, but the photos also helped to give a glimpse of propaganda. The propaganda filled backdrops, and the colorful matching outfits make a silent but clear statement that has helped people gain a better understanding of the eerie nation.

The celebration also reflects the significant artistic capabilities that human beings are capable of while highlighting the tyrannical rule that North Korean citizens are made to endure in the 21st century. On one side, the photographs make North Koreans appear like ordinary people participating in a run of the mill celebrations. However, on the flip side, these people live a very different existential experience where they are segregated from the rest of the world. Luckily for us, photographers like Chancel provide an insider’s look into the most unknown country in the world.

This is Chance’s second North Korean installation which he released after his first project DPRK. DPRK brought him the international recognition that resulted in publications and exhibitions of his works in several prestigious publications and galleries.

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006


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Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Oliver Wainwright - National Drama Theatre, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightNational Drama Theatre, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright North Korean Interiors documents the unique architecture and the interiors of various regions of North Korea and its capital Pyongyang. Not many photographers get the opportunity to explore this isolated country owing to its closed state; however, Wainwright took the opportunity and ran with it. The interiors that he documented were very kitsch and retro as they were originally created to adorn important theaters and buildings that were designed during the Soviet era.

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Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01
Eddo HartmannSetting the Stage: Pyongyang – Pyongyang women 01, 2014

North Korea is known for its fascination and terror in the same measure. Most of the world knows North Korea for its former leader Kim Jong II and the current Kim Jong Un. However, the fascinating thing about Pyongyang is its architecture.

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Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm
Sea Hyun LeeBetween Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

South Korea’s traditional illustrative and art history is immovable; however, cultural and artistic experimentation will always be relentless. Sea Hyun Lee demonstrates his understanding of just how true the above statement is through his art. He manages to join the two forces of past and present together to create Between the Red.

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Prohibited photos from world’s most isolated country

Prohibited photos from world’s most isolated country

Michal Huniewicz - North Korea - Pyongyang
Michal HuniewiczOstensibly Ordinary: Pyongyang
Inhabitants of Pyongyang commuting.

A lot of attention was recently drawn to a series of photographs taken by London-based photographer Michal Huniewicz. These photographs are somewhat prohibited as they show the real side of North Korea. Tourists who want to visit North Korea are only allowed to do so through pre-arranged tours booked via travel agencies. When they arrive, there will be tour guides who will be with them at all times throughout their stay in the country. It is quite normal for tour guides to be assigned to tourists so as to ease their movements and make the tour a worthy experience but truthfully, the main job of tour guides in North Korea is to prevent tourists from interacting with locals, to prevent them from taking pictures and keep them away from areas where there is a high rate of poverty and unhappiness. Tourists are not allowed to take photos of soldiers and there are certain places where cameras are not allowed to be used.

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This is how conflict tastes

This is how conflict tastes

Conflict Kitchen: Cuban, Iranian, Afghan, Venezuelan

Conflict Kitchen: Cuban, Iranian, Afghan, Venezuelan
Conflict Kitchen: Cuban, Iranian, Afghan and Venezuelan takeouts, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Conflict Kitchen is a unique restaurant in Pittsburgh focusing on one nation at a time, serving dishes from countries with which the United States is currently in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen version is amplified by profound events, performances, publications, and discussions that strive to expand the public’s engagement with the culture, politics, and issues that the country of focus deals with.

This restaurant does more than introduce customers to the food of the focus country, but envelopes them in the country’s culture, and politics introducing customers to the diverse perspectives from real members of the focus community thus serving to reveal a nuanced scale of thought, understanding, an belief within each country. This dynamic restaurant serves to bring about inquisitorial reactions, conversation, and debate with customers.

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Sensational photos of North Korea’s mass games

Sensational photos of North Korea’s mass games

andreas-gursky-pyongyang-I1
Andreas Gursky – Pyongyang I, 2007, c-print, 307 x 215,5cm
© Andreas Gursky / VG Bild-Kunst. Courtesy: Monika Sprüth / Philomene Magers

Renowned for his large-format colour photographs charting themes of globalised society at work and play, Andreas Gursky’s production employs the digital technology to capture and refine an astounding compilation of detail on an epic scale. The perspective in many of Gursky’s photographs is drawn from an elevated vantage point. This position enables the viewer to encounter scenes, encompassing both centre and periphery, which are ordinarily beyond reach.

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