Asia North Korea Photo Essays

Observations of Life in North Korea by an Outsider

May 23, 2018

by Teresa Yong

North Korea is not a name strange to us, but a place shrouded in the thickest layers of unfamiliarity. With the intention to uncover what lies behind the curtain of reports we hear so often about, I took the opportunity last June to visit one the world’s last surviving communist states.

From its streets lined with pastel-coloured flats to the fields dotted with bend-back farmers, the country in a glimpse, appeared just like any other except with a strong tint of the 80s. Life here strikes a balance between the morning rushes at the bus stands and the laid back rounds of poker in the park. Young children amuse themselves with simple toys whilst their older counterparts practised their arts. And I remember while we were on our way to Mount Kumgang, our tour guide sang us a short chorus of Champs Elyseés.

But amidst these simple yet whimsical scenes, there is still a strict sense of discipline that surrounds the people of this country. Their persisting use of grain tickets and government allocated occupations are bemusing and alien to us. However, they seem to be genuinely content with their lifestyle, much like a fulfilment of one of their numerous lines of slogans: 세상에부럼없어라, meaning ’nothing to envy’.

So while trying to weave a reality out of the little corners of this country I am allowed to see, I am well aware that I am still quite a distance away from peeling through its veil. But I hope that through these photographs of their everyday life, I can bring you closer to the flip side of North Korea that you may never have imagined.

Editors note: Here at ROAM, we do not want to encourage travel to North Korea, but instead we hope this post sheds some light on a different North Korea than we see in the media. As Teresa says in her opening paragraph, we understand that these images provide only a glimpse into the country.


Observations of Daily Life in North Korea, Captured by an Outsider | ROAM Magazine

Teresa Yong is an amateur photographer from Singapore who seeks to document the world’s kaleidoscope of culture through her lens. She started off with hogging her parents’ camera while travelling and has since moved on to explore other mediums like film. Her favourite remains to be the Instax Wide. She’s currently taking a gap year, which has thus far found her in situations like finding a snake in her shoe in Thailand and chasing chickens in Japan.

    Leave a Reply