Window to North Korea
By Bobby Yip
A ten-day media tour to North Korea is a challenge for the authorities, as well as a challenge for the press. As one side tries to highly control what should be seen and who should be interviewed, the other side tries to show the world what the reality is.
Except visits to scheduled events, in most cases photographers are not allowed to walk on the street to take photos. Many of my images were shot through the window of a media bus or on one occasion through the window of a train. Watching the street scenes and the village scenes along the way, I felt an isolation between the people and me. I also sensed the isolation between the people themselves. It is the ideology behind the surface which distinguishes North Korea from many other countries, and it shows on the streets.
Events arranged for the media to cover are colorful.
North Korea surprisingly opened their rocket launch pad, as well as the control center at the site and another on the outskirts of the capital for media visits.
Another highlight which attracted media attention was ceremonial events surrounding the centenary of the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, including a military parade, fireworks display, concert and gala show.
There were also visits to factories, farms and a university.
Still, the scene closest to us all — ordinary lives being lived right outside our buses — is tightly controlled for media access.
I like the natural look of the streets, even though I explored them in an uncomfortable way. Normally window glass is an obstacle for a photographer. But here in North Korea it’s a perfect angle to capture the atmosphere of Pyongyang and its surroundings; distant and subtle.