A group in Pyongyang rehearse for a mass performance. DPRK citizens take part in mass displays from a very early age that emphasize the principles of "Juche", a set of political ideas formulated by Kim Il Sung that require absolute loyalty to the revolutionary party and leader.
North Korea – Been There

“You do not feel free”

Photo by Robert van Sluis

North Korea – Been There “You do not feel free”

After a stop at the moving Revolutionary Martyr’s Cemetery, we visit a botanical garden dedicated to the Kimjongilia and Kimilsungia flowers. It smells fabulous and I find it amazing to see an entire museum dedicated to two flowers, which were originally a gift from Indonesia and Japan to North Korea’s leaders.

Robert van Sluis
Robert van Sluis Travel Photographer

Outside, the rain comes down by the bucket, but in spite of this, hundreds of people are practicing for one of the upcoming parades. In this weather, it appears as if the whole of Pyongyang is wearing the same type of rubber boots.

A visit to Moran Park is presented as a chance to mingle with the local people. The park is gorgeous but seems empty when our group enter, until we meet some elderly ladies and one man who, as if prompted, turns on some music. The speaker is a meter tall, not really the sort of thing you would take to the park with you. We are invited to dance with the frail but elegant-looking 70-year old ladies. However, after only a few minutes we are kindly escorted to the next event. As we exit this section of the park, the music is turned off and any effort to have a second look is softly discouraged.

This is one of the first times we have seen a crack in the façade we are being presented with and our group discuss it afterwards. Someone mentions how we have not seen any poverty or disabled people; we are seeing only what the government want us to see. “You feel incredibly small because everywhere you go, because there is always something that is controlling you,” says one. “The most telling thing is that you do not feel free. Nothing is moving you that does not come from the outside, not the inside. People do not smile very much and the seriousness does get to you after a while.”

dprk-north-korea-pyongyang-2554

Pyongyang citizens return in the August rain from the practice for a parade. The country has long, bitter winters while summers are short, hot and humid with lots of rain. Photo by Robert van Sluis

Robert van Sluis

Robert van Sluis

Nikon D700

Aperture
ƒ/8
Exposure
1/250
ISO
800
Focal
70 mm

Pyongyang citizens return in the August rain from the practice for a parade. The country has long, bitter winters while summers are short, hot and humid with lots of rain.

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