It’s no secret that North Korea is on a serious lock down – a land mass of mystery that little of us know almost anything about when it comes to the running of the country day-to-day, and vice-versa. But just last week, American photographer Taylor Pemberton (aka @pemberton) shared shots that he took while visiting the country, posting images of everyday life inside.
The 26-year-old, originally from Minneapolis, told the BBC tourists were required to declare any "communication devices" at the airport, and remained under the constant watchful eye of “tourist guides”. He goes on to explain that the guides also set wake up times, meal times and alerted him to when the day, a closely monitored expedition of museums, monuments and military zones, was nearing to a close.
The fascinating shots show locals playing volleyball in a square and in the midst of a mass dance prepared for the country’s Liberation Day. Pemberton gave more insight into the isolation of the country when he captioned an image of locals reading the daily printed news bulletin inside a public building, explaining, "This is the only public news I saw in Pyongyang, where each headline and each image is a tribute to the DPRK and great leader."
He also goes on to talk about how he struggled to properly engage with locals, revealing, "I felt ignored when trying to wave, smile, or interact with locals. Some people reciprocate but it was nothing like other far away cultures," adding that while there is no internet inside North Korea, there is also very little concept of what the internet is.
“I tried to be as respectful as possible through my journey and hope that some of the riskier bits will shine light on some important aspects of North Korean life” – Taylor Pemberton
However subversive Pemberton’s images might appear, he persists that his images were taken from a non-judgemental place, telling the BBC, “It's easy to go into the country feeling certain about what is right and what is wrong. I feel it's also unfair for me to pass judgment on what their life may be like. It's a different world with a different framework. When all that melts away, and you are able to see the substance in the humanity, it's amazing.”
He discusses one image shot from a moving bus where he accidentally captured military personnel in front of one of the country’s omnipresent billboards promoting North Korea’s past and present leaders, saying, “One of the first rules you're told is that you should not, under any circumstance, photograph military personnel. When I took this photo I was moving in a fast bus and didn't even see the mass of soldiers at ease,” adding, “I tried to be as respectful as possible through my journey and hope that some of the riskier bits will shine light on some important aspects of North Korean life”.
The photos come just days after the announcement that the country and its southern counterpart are on the verge of war, and with Pemberton’s captions promising more images to be posted this week, his account is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Follow Ashleigh Kane on Twitter here @ashleighkane