Daily Life in Pyongyang

Collection with 46 media items created by Gavin John

Korea, N 15 Apr 2014 00:00

At first glance Pyongyang seems like any ordinary city, with the bustle you would come to expect from any capital. However, the city of 3.5 million people is anything but ordinary. With a city devoid of any forms of advertising, imposing patriotic posters take their place encouraging citizens to be loyal to the party and nation. Heroic images of soldiers and DPRK flags adorn the roofs of imposing government buildings. Soviet style apartment blocks are painted shades of pastel to cover the drab concrete and create an almost out of character cheery feel to the residential districts. Bus stops feature backdrops of anti-aircraft guns and monuments to the leaders and party pierce the skyline. The streets, while busy, are almost entirely composed of transit vehicles, military trucks or government cars. Very few vehicles appeared to be independently owned and operated by normal citizens. The interior of many of the buildings are kept dim and cold, with all electricity cut off around 1 am every time. That is, besides the portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Ill that adorn many buildings and are constantly illuminated throughout the night. Cut off from the world, the city seems to be stuck in many decades. With architecture of Cold War era Soviet Union, vehicles from both the 70's and 2000's, well dressed fashion from the early 90s, a nationalistic fervor from 1930's Germany, and the latest touch screen smart phones from China. Knowledge of the outside world is equally a skewed, with state run television showing clips of American military technology from the 1980s and 90s, mention of the missing Malaysia Air flight, and a lack of any knowledge of other countries beyond stereotypes from the few citizens we were able to speak with. Yet some sense of normalcy is not hard to find in the city. A skate park bustles with many trying their hand at rollerblading which appeared to be a very popular past-time. Games of volleyball are seen being played anywhere from dirt fields to sprawling squares in the city center usually associated with military parades. Stuck between a heavily militarized and oppressive ideology and a comparatively less visible softer side, Pyongyang is a city of drastic contrasts. The photographer visited North Korea (DPRK) in April, 2014

Pyongyang North Korea Daily Life

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By Gavin John
15 Apr 2014

A young girl skips rope along the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang on April 16, 2014. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
15 Apr 2014

A department store in Pyongyang contains an odd range of products from medicine, jewellery, clothing and frozen meat in a relatively small store. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

Women in traditional dress walk through the streets of Pyongyang on April 13, 2014. The colourful dresses are common sight in the capital and is the attire for many formal events.Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A young family carries a carpet through the streets of Pyongyang on April 13, 2014.Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

A Pyongyang traffic lady directs cars in Pyongyang on April 14, 2014.Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
11 Apr 2014

Portraits of former North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sun (left) and Kim Jong Ill (right) are lit up on the side of a building in downtown Pyongyang on April 12, 2014. The portraits are visible on most buildings across the city and are kept lit throughout the night. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A giant bronze statue of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il stands behind a statue depicting Korean revolutionary fighters at the Mansudae Grand Monuments in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 12th, 2014. The square predominately features statues of the former North Korean leaders, where citizens pay their respects. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

Giant bronze statues of former North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (left) and Kim Jong-Ill (right) stand in the centre of the Mansudae Grand Monuments in central Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 12, 2014. The monument was originally created in 1972 and featured only Kim Il-Sung but following the death of Kim Jong-Ill in 2011 the monument was updated in 2012 with the addition of his statue. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A Pyongyang traffic police woman assists in directing traffic in downtown Pyongyang on April 12, 2014. Despite popular rumour that there is not enough electricity for traffic lights in Pyongyang, the traffic police are there to assist in addition to the traffic lights. However, in more rural towns and cities the police have a more active role in directing the flow of traffic. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A transit worker attends the door at a Pyongyang, North Korea metro stop on April 12, 2014. The metro features approximately 15 stops on two separate lines. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

Pyongyang commuters wait for a bus in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea on April 13, 2014. There was no visible advertising in the city and all of the bus stops featured images of North Korean natural and cultural heritage instead. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

A statue depicting the different aspects of the Workers Party of Korea faces towards the Grand Peoples Study House in the distance in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 13, 2014. The symbols of the sickle, brush and hammer represent the farmer, artist and worker of Korea. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

A Korean Peoples Army solider stands on the bank of the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 13, 2014. There is a constant presence of military personal in the city as the North Korean political ideology of Junche is a "military first" philosophy. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

The 170m high Juche Tower stands a statue of the Workers Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 13, 2014. The tower is the second highest column in the world and is named after the Juche ideology that North Korea is based around. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

Portraits of former North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung (left) and Kim Jong-Il are displayed on an apartment building in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 13, 2014. Large block apartments such as this are quite common in the city. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

Traffic moves through a typical long stretching boulevard in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 13, 2014. While the city appeared to have much less traffic by western standards, normal events such as rush hour and traffic jams do occur here. Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

North Koreans bow in-front of statues of the former leaders Kim Il-Sung (left) and Kim Jong-Il (right) at the Mansudae Grand Monuments in Pyongyang on April 14, 2014. Thousands of North Koreans pay their respects by bowing and placing flowers at the base of the giant bronze statues.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A Korean War veteran from the Korean Peoples Army and a young boy visits the monuments to the former North Korean leaders at the Mansudae Grand Monuments in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 12, 2014. It is common for North Koreans to pay their respects to the previous leaders on a regular basis by bowing and presenting flowers.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A Korean War veteran from the Korean Peoples Army and a young boy visits the monuments to the former North Korean leaders at the Mansudae Grand Monuments in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 12, 2014. It is common for North Koreans to pay their respects to the previous leaders on a regular basis by bowing and presenting flowers.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

North Koreans smile and watch as they wait in line for an amusement park ride in Pyongyang on April 15, 2014.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

A young girl smiles as she gets out of a bumper car ride in Pyongyang on April 15, 2014.

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

Two women dressed in traditional Korean outfits prepare to lay flowers at the monuments to the former North Korean leaders at the Mansudae Grand Monuments in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 12, 2014. It is common for North Koreans to pay their respects to the previous leaders on a regular basis by bowing and presenting flowers.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
15 Apr 2014

A child rides under a patriotic poster in the North Korean city of Kaesong on April 16, 2014.

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

Two young members of the Korean Peoples Army pose for a photo near the site of former North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung's house in Pyongyang, on April 12, 2014. Near the day of Kim Il-Sung's birthday of April 15th it is common for North Koreans to visit historical locations associated with the founder.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A woman and child in traditional Korean outfits prepare to lay flowers at the monuments to the former North Korean leaders at the Mansudae Grand Monuments in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 12, 2014. It is common for North Koreans to pay their respects to the previous leaders on a regular basis by bowing and presenting flowers.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A man squints to read a communal newspaper in the Pyongyang metro line on April 12, 2014. Individual newspapers appeared to be rare in the metro and the common use papers were often a large gathering point for commuters waiting for the train.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A metro attendant signals to the train drive that all doors are closed in the Pyongyang Metro on April 12, 2014. The dimly lit station is part of a network over approximately 12 stops and two lines that service Pyongyang.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

Transit riders read a communal newspaper while they wait for the next train in the Pyongyang Metro on April 12, 2014. The dimly lit station is part of a network over approximately 12 stops and two lines that service Pyongyang.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

The courtyard of the massive Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum in sits empty in Pyongyang on April 14, 2014. The museum is dedicated not only to the Korean War but to the resistance to the Japanese in the 1930s and 40s.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

A Korean Peoples Army tour guide walks through the monuments of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation Museum in Pyongyang on April 14, 2014. The massive museum is dedicated not only to the Korean War but to the resistance to the Japanese in the 1930s and 40s.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
12 Apr 2014

Pyongyang commuters line up for the bus on April 13, 2014. With many citizens in the capital not owning their own vehicles, public transit such as bus and train appeared very popular.

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13 Apr 2014

A man rides his bike past a Pyongyang traffic man on April 13, 2014.

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

The Monument to the Korean Workers Party stands in Pyongyang on April 13, 2014. The symbols of the hammer, brush and sickle represent the foundations of the Juche ideology of the worker, artist and farmer.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

A stern faced member of the Pyongyang traffic police directs traffic in Pyongyang on April 13, 2014. The highly visible police are newly graduated officers who first work as traffic officers until they qualify for other roles inside the force. The officers each direct traffic in approximately 30 minutes rotations with another officer throughout the day to combat the monotony of standing in one spot for so long.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
13 Apr 2014

A woman rests on the window sill of a department store in Pyongyang on April 13, 2014. While there were many such stores across Pyongyang, access to them for foreigners is usually not allowed.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

North Koreans play a game of volleyball in Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang, on April 14, 2014. Volleyball is an extremely popular sport in the city with many buildings having a net of some sorts nearby and is played by all age groups.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

A school girl stands outside the Pyongyang Children's Palace on April 14, 2014. The red scarf is worn by all grade school students in North Korea and is worn until they graduate.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

A group of men and children walk around the grounds of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun where the bodies of former leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong Ill lay preserved in Pyongyang on April 14th, 2014. Around the April 15th birthday of Kim Il-Sung the mausoleum is a very popular location for North Koreans to visit and honour the former leader where thousands of citizens gather on the grounds.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

School children wave at the camera at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on April 14, 2014. The palace holds the persevered bodies of former leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il and is a very popular location to visit near April 15th which was Kim Il-Sung's birthday, now a national holiday called "The day of the Sun".

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media

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By Gavin John
14 Apr 2014

Korean Peoples Army soldiers watch the fireworks to celebrate "The Day of the Sun" holiday in Pyongyang on April 15, 2014.

Gavin John/Freelance/Transterra Media