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Photo Friday – North Korea, behind the wall and out of view

July 17, 2009

Many readers may remember my short travel stint into North Korea at the end of 2008. Short it was, a total of eight hours. Eye opening and mentally challenging, I ended up with very little in the way of useable images, little in the way of tangible evidence to prove I was there, with the exception of some unusual tasting arrowroot and persimmon tea ($10US a box).

In essence as we all know: North Korean officials like things to remain out of the public eye — public being international. After editing some photographs of past trips, I came across several pictures which, if you imagine hard enough, are some that I took in the country’s southern most city Kaesong. To reach Kaesong from South Korea means crossing a heavily guarded, time consuming, bureaucratically organised border, and back again in one day. All photographic images are checked by North Korean authorities on departure, the bland non-descript ones are always given the official seal of approval; naturally the gritty good ones get, deleted.

So, imagine if you can the southern mountains and pastures surrounding the city of Kaesong.

by Cate

by Cate

by Cate

by Cate

A glorious waterfall spouting volume upon volume of clear mountain water into a tranquil pool. When I was there the water had frozen.

by Cate

by Cate

Access to the city’s streets, houses and buildings was virtually impossible.  Everything was either shut down, hidden or locked behind closed walls and a guarded gate.

Because of Kaesong’s location to South Korea, it had been up until December 2008, a popular day excursion for South Koreans and foreigners. Expensive but worth it in an odd way. If you want to know more about my trip check it out here: North Korea.

For more Friday photos and talk head on over to the bloggers session @ Delicious Baby.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. July 17, 2009 7:23 am

    The steep rock is gorgeous and great. The water must be hammering the pool in loud volume.

  2. July 17, 2009 10:39 am

    Oooh, you’ve piqued my curiosity…gotta check out your North Korea post now. I’ve never had the inkling to go to South Korea, but to North Korea…there’s a kind of voyeuristic attraction to that. Maybe because of the fast that we have seen so little of the country. I have an image of NOrth Korea as a land dotted by nuclear weapon fields and Chernobyl-style towns.

  3. July 17, 2009 1:09 pm

    Beautiful photos – but I would love to see some of the ones that get ‘deleted’. Will check out your other N Korea post now.

  4. July 17, 2009 1:43 pm

    How do they check film? Or would they just confiscate that?

    Also, what’s to stop you from having a second memory card and hiding it? Or are you watched the whole time?

  5. July 17, 2009 3:48 pm

    so fascinating. especially about which images they let through…I hope you’ve seen “A State of Mind” – a fascinating documentary about the Mass Games in N. Korea.


  6. July 17, 2009 4:59 pm

    Wow! I bet it’s one of the most memorable 8 hours trip. I read your other posts and I love the pictures that they allow to get out. Make me wanna see the ones that got deleted.

  7. July 18, 2009 9:04 am

    Interesting glimpse of somewhere quite mysterious because of the dearth of eyewitness info that gets out about it!

  8. July 18, 2009 11:29 am

    Rainfield – yes the rock formations and cliffs are very unique there, old and worn.

    Jen – Nice imagination, I would like to see around Pyongyang I think it’s more surreal. My images have always been more like Albania of the past: poor, crumbling, cold etc.

    Caitlin – yes you’re watched constantly, and you start becoming paranoid about it. Film? I wouldn’t know how they check it but with digital, they just look at every shot. In a sense the guards are extremely efficient with a cool politeness around them. They just went about their job, no yelling or hassle like security at western airports.

    Anne – I did see about half of this doc, it was something to think about. And I would really like to see these Mass Games, they are suppose to be spectacular, just incredibly pricy.

    Amy -I took some shots of apartment complexes and some curious Nth Koreans hanging out on the balconies. I sneaked these shots when the minders weren’t around. But these pictures were deleted. The pictures weren’t even that wonderful, but they were not sanctioned photos.

    Dominique – The sad thing is that this country has so much potential, the landscape and forests are pretty much virgin and pristine. Let’s hope the next leader has more foresight.

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

  9. July 18, 2009 1:06 pm

    My husband would be in heaven with that wall. he’s a climber and everything looks climbable to him!!!

  10. Cate permalink
    July 19, 2009 12:41 pm

    Marina – I envy him, he probably would enjoy the walls and cliffs throughout both Koreas.

  11. July 20, 2009 5:10 pm

    How many pictures did you take in total and how many made it past the inspection?

    • July 21, 2009 9:37 am

      I think I took around 300 shots mainly of rubbish, 290 were kept. It was difficult to take unsanctioned pictures during the trip, there were the South Korean tour guides constantly watching us as well as the North Korean guides, and minders. We were constantly reminded and guided, and kept under tight control – paranoia extreme.

  12. July 21, 2009 3:38 pm

    This is really amazing place, some of guys here talk about some deleted pictures, please repost those pictures.

    • July 21, 2009 4:33 pm

      Sorry I can’t repost the deleted picturs, the pictures were deleted from my camera by North Korean security.


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