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Sterile Yet Fascinating Photos of North Korea

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaMosaics picturing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on the Jangdae Hill in Pyongyang.

Belgian photographer Maxime Delvaux spent 12 days in North Korea exploring the power of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s ubiquitous propaganda. Photographers are not very welcome, so it pays to play the tourist card. As a tourist you can visit sites and take pictures, however not without permanent guides and a driver. Delvaux shot these with a 4×5, often with a watchful eye over what he was shooting. Mikhail Kissine, an assistant professor at the University of Brussels speaks eloquently about the project:

Catching from the corner of the eye the sight of what might be a hungry child isn’t necessary to understand the madness of the regime. The few people in the surrounding emptiness give the scale of the buildings; the sober explanations, provided by the regime itself, give the scale of the folly. We don’t need to be told that the cooperative shop isn’t available to a starving population: one should be scared of a regime that builds to foul visitors. What Maxime Delvaux’s photos show is very real. Sufficiently real, indeed, to gently distillate a disturbing feeling.

Propaganda works insidiously, or else it would be useless. So, if at first you only feel slightly amused, if it takes you a while to understand what it means for a country to display this, it’s all right. This is what these photos are for.
Mikhail Kissine

Maxime Delvaux North KoreaStudy room in the Grand People Study House in Pyongyang.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaThe Ryugyong Hotel with a height of 330 meters, is by far the largest structure in North Korea. The construction began in 1987 and is still ongoing.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaShop selling local products in a cooperative farm close to Hamhung.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaThe Hungnam Fertilizer Complex in Hamhung which is one of the largest factories of the DPRK.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaMansudae Grand Monument with Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s 20 meters tall statues in front of the sacred Mount Paektu’s 70 meter long mosaic.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaUlim Waterfall, the 2001 sign was made in memory of Kim Jong Il’s visit at that time and was sculpted to recreate his handwriting.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaEntrance door of the demilitarized zone in the former village of Panmunjom where the armistice of the Korean war was signed between Korea and the United nations. The mosaic symbolizes North Korean’s will of reunification.

Maxime-Delvaux north koreaPyongyang’s national flower exhibition displaying the Kimilsungia and the Kimjongilia, the DPRK’s national flowers.

Maxime Delvaux North KoreaRoom in the Ryonggang Hot Spa Hotel close to Nampo which display a spa in each room.