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.
The only way how tourists can 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 to ease their movements and make the tour a worthy experience. Still, 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.
Sometimes tourists can smuggle out unbiased photos
These tour guides take tourists to areas where they have things under control and properly managed. Although on rare occasions, tourists can take more unbiased photos of North Korea and smuggle them out, which is just what Michal Huniewicz did.
Michal Huniewicz’s North Korea photos
His photos show North Korean citizens living in abject poverty in a country that seems to be in a state of deadlock with no apparent signs of moving forward. According to the photographer, there was hardly anyone seen smiling. They either looked gloomy, or their body language suggested that they were ready to obey the next order. Nobody showed much excitement at the sight of foreigners, and it almost felt like they didn’t see them. In one of his photos, some of the citizens were seen sweeping pavements and public places under the supervision of soldiers. In others, waitresses were seen working in restaurants where propaganda images are shown on television throughout the day.
Border police was looking for ‘The Interview’
As part of the search conducted on tourists, the controversial Hollywood film, the Interview1 was checked for on laptops as it is banned in the country. Huniewicz did manage to get the photos out through small memory cards, lying about his camera and keeping a straight face.
Huniewicz would be thrilled to go back to the country when the current regime collapses, but he thinks it would be unwise to go anytime soon. This is probably due to an American tourist, Otto Warmbier, who got sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for stealing a poster from the same hotel Michal stayed. North Koreans have had their freedom of expression and will take away from them and through these photos, the world can have an idea of what is going on there.
All images: Michal Huniewicz unless otherwise noted.