This is North Korea

And it’s kind of shitty.

I get a database error so I can’t comment directly, but how shitty does North Korea have to be for it to be surprising? The poor bastards were having to eat grass not too long ago due to the wonders of a command economy.

I don’t think pictures can convey the sheer totalitarianism of the place. The movie A State of Mind shows things (like the radios in every kitchen that broadcast state propagenda all day) that brings home just how different the place is, and really makes it clear how North Korea is unlike any other place on Earth today.

I’ve seen a couple of photo tours of North Korea, like this. The real point are the pictures of all of the old houses, ringed and hidden by the skyscrappers.

A friend of a friend apparently does tour groups to North Korea,, and posted some pretty cool photos on flikr.

The “travel advice” section is pretty funny. It’s all very upbeat, with a couple of nice tidbits slipped in:

There are many restrictions on the movements of foreign visitors to DPRK. You basically have to be accompanied wherever you go (apart from if you just have a stroll around near the hotel) and much of the country is off limits even to NGOs and diplomats.

Despite claims in various newspapers it seems to us (although we don’t know for sure) very unlikely indeed that the Koreans would bug the hotel rooms of western visitors. … Nevertheless as in all places in DPRK it is best to restrain your criticisms until having left the country. Phone calls and postcards made and sent from DPRK should be treated as not secure.

We cannot risk putting the guides in serious danger and it is therefore only advisable visiting the DPRK if you can tolerate the following points:

* In the DPRK you will be under close scrutiny from the guides and security. Use of cameras causes the majority of problems. You can only take a photograph of what the guides allow. The public are obliged to report all photography. Taking photos of soldiers, at check points, poverty, sneaked photos and close ups of people without their express permission will cause serious problems. Photography when being driven around is also restricted. Even what we would interpret as 'day to day' harmless scenes may cause problems. It is too easy to get carried away and think that it is not causing offence or would not put the guides in danger. This is not the case and therefore we ask our tourists to take a very responsible attitude even though it may mean missing the photographic opportunity. If the group gets the confidence of the guides you will have amazing opportunities for photography and you will miss out on very little. You cannot take lens over 150 mm into DPRK.
* Leaving the hotel without the guides or the guides' express permission is not possible. If you are feeling the need for 'a breath of air' then a casual stroll along the river is possible but only if accompanied with a guide. It is possible to stroll in the grounds of the hotel but please ask the guide and do not take your camera.
* We are 'invited' to the DPRK and therefore we ask our tourists to respect the Koreans and their vision of the Great Leader- this involves bowing at the 20 metre statue on Mansudae and on various other occasions. Chewing gum/sweets and wearing scruffy clothing in places of Korean national importance (Mansudae statue to Kim Il Sung/Friendship Exhibition/and Manyongdae birthplace of Kim Il Sung in particular) will offend guides.

i wouldn’t last 5 minutes in that country

It’s pretty much what I envsion my empire will be like when I’m playing an RPG as an evil guy.

A completely empty main street. Wow.
The cities remind me of a few places (Karlovy Vary (non-spa part) and Shantou(but less so)), and I bet the crossover from South to North is the same as the crossover in Nicosia. It’s really quite shocking how different the two sides are.

Heh, the fines for crossing the street when you are not supposed to also happen in HK. Supposedly- I did not bother to check.

What really strikes me about those pictures is the emptiness (save the last few shots). Few people, few cars, carbon copy Russian propaganda posters that have been modified staring bleakly out over nothing. Perhaps it is just the chance, but it’s disheartening.
Going on Jasper’s post, it was all down to chance. Excellent. Some of the photos of Pyongyang look just like Shantou (barring the hotel).

These are the coolest pics of somewhere I’ll never ever go since those Chernobyl pics taken by that girl on a crotchrocket.

Heh, my thoughts exactly. It’s kinda neat to see the photos, but there are sure alot of entries higher on the list of places I’d like to visit.

It makes me ponder how incredibly difficult the adjustment will be for the North Koreans if Kim Jong Il ever gets overthrown, or the country somehow becomes democratic. The propaganda is a part of their lives every minute of the day. Even down to insane details like how people walk. It really is like another universe on earth. I never experienced communist USSR to be able to compare, but I visited Bulgaria when it was still communist. What little “normal” Bulgarian life I saw was similarly “grey”, but the propaganda was nowhere near as ubiquitous.

I imagine it would be an extreme version of the Iraqi experience right now. Very extreme. Makes one grateful for accidents of birth.

Just for contrast, here’s some pics I took from my recent trip to South Korea:

Yeah, no clue who’s winning the war of ideology there, boy howdy.

Great photos. North Korea looks a lot like Czechoslovakia during communism. They weren’t so dirt-poor when we visited – they did have cars and tractors and electricity and stuff – but they also had those creepy huge propaganda posters along country roads, and those Orwellian speakers mounted on poles in remote villages. The highway just behind the border was a huge concrete tank trap as well.

Bad roads are indeed endemic in communism, by the way, just like poor maintenance in general. Houses and machinery are generally old, run down and dirty; many roads are littered with huge potholes. That was also very visible in East Germany just after the wall came down.

Chris: Not that I think things were better in the Czech Reoublic during the communist years, but parts of it is still very depressing, it has retained some of it’s command economy style greyness. When I crossed over from Austria last year, the road after the crossing was thick with whores, carrying cardboard signs with prices, sitting in busstop shelters, standing by crossroads, looking like old, tacky, depressed seminude childern peddling lemonade by the roadside.

It takes a while to get past the garage sale phase of capitalism. Think wild wild west.

Giant mechanized spiders? Holy crap!

Karlovy Vary is probably the most depressing city I have ever been to. It is a celebrity-happy spa town, so the spa side has grand hotels, expensive shops (including a Mont Blanc shop) and restaurants, and so on. The side you must drive through if you are coming in from Germany is a wasteland of derelict buildings, all run-down and grey.

My parents were really surprised* by the change in Berlin when we visited two years ago. The last time we were there was 1989/1990, as my father was stationed there. We were actually on a day trip into the East the day the wall officially fell.

*Not really, but they said the change was colossal.

I love the Ryugyong Hotel (ŏng_Hotel). Is there a bigger monument to failure in the world?

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