While, on the one hand, the propaganda leads people to believe that life is worth living in North Korea, the reality shows completely different images. But everyday life in North Korea is not that easy to capture in photos. Only rarely are foreign photographers allowed in North Korea to photograph reality. The government controls everything very strictly. But even if you are not allowed to photograph some things, one or the other succeeds in photographing life and everyday life in North Korea. Visitors or the few North Koreans who managed to escape portray real life and the problems they faced.
Anyone who visits the capital or all of the facilities that serve as showcase facilities creates the image of a halfway modern state. Skyscrapers, cell phones, cars, all of these can be found in the capital and the big cities. What the tourist mostly does not get to see is the poverty in the countryside and a life that is largely without technology.
In agriculture, animals are often used as draft animals. Tractors are missing or cannot drive at all due to a lack of fuel. The country is heavily armed. Military vehicles are often seen, but they are not allowed to be photographed either. Much work is still done by hand. North Koreans can be obliged to work in the countryside at any time.
Human rights violations
Human rights are being massively violated in North Korea. North Korea is considered to be the strictest of all totalitarian systems in the world. Listening to foreign radio stations is just as punishable as using the Internet. There are even public executions of opponents of the government. The population then has to watch. Even children should see what happens when you defy the government. For more information about North Korea and Asia, please visit programingplease.
A contemplative capital
The capital wants to present itself to visitors properly and perfectly. Anyone walking through Pyongyang is reminded at first glance of life in an ordinary Asian city. Ice cream cones, fast food and pizza – that is also available and shows the other side of the city.
Even if capitalism and the West are criticized, many want the luxury goods of the West and those who belong to the party also have the chance to get various luxury goods. North Koreans carry designer handbags or use their cell phones to make calls. However, they are only allowed to make calls in Germany, calls abroad are prohibited. This also shapes the streetscape of the capital. But things are much quieter here than in other large cities.
The US is “the enemy”
Even in kindergarten, the children learn that the West and above all the USA are their enemy. It is said again and again that the Americans wanted to attack North Korea and destroy the North Koreans. This is repeated until everyone believes it. The teachers tell it, the parents confirm it – this is how the little North Koreans are raised to be enemies of the USA from a very early age. 40 percent of the North Korean population is actively serving in the military or is in reserve, waiting for a military deployment. The handling of weapons is normal for everyone. Conscription applies to both women and men and lasts three to five years.
Own opinions are forbidden
Many people just don’t know it any other way. They grew up, raised and attended school in the system. The censorship in the country is so strict that it is almost impossible to hear information from abroad or even different opinions. How should a child or adolescent form their own opinion here? Anyone who still thinks about it and still allows themselves to express a critical opinion must expect penalties that can extend to admission to the dreaded camp. Even small, harmless critical statements are sufficient for this.
Anyone who has doubts about the quasi-religious veneration of the political leaders Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un must expect severe punishment. And not only those who criticize are punished, but often the whole family has to suffer, including the children. Even small children grow up in the notorious penal camps. We don’t know how many people are starting to question the system. But who has the courage to expose their entire family to the terrible consequences?
In order to understand why the US and North Korea are enemies, one has to deal a little with the Cold War and also with the role of Korea as the site of a proxy war. Click the links to find out more.