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Diaries from North Korea
Pyongyang
By Luca Faccio
30 Aug 2015

[FULL NATURAL SOUND VERSION AVAILABLE WITH ENGLISH SCRIPT UPON REQUEST]

My first visit to North Korea was in 2005, when the regime was still ruled by Kim Jong Il.
The country had not yet admitted to possessing nuclear weapons, but I found it strange that Western media showed such disinterest towards this isolationist state: why were they ignoring a country that still ran concentration camps?

In the summer of 2006 the DPRK announced that North Korea had built its first atomic bomb and suddenly Western media became aware of the fact that this country could possibly pose a global threat.
In my documentary, made in three stages between 2012 and 2015, I examine North Korea under the new leader Kim Jong Un. Even if his leadership appears no different to that of his predecessor -- continued purges, executions and the strict control of every citizen -- at an economic level, small but significant changes are visible. With increasing trade, the government is being forced to build bridges and to allow its merchants a possibility of economic development. This, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Modern supermarkets, gambling halls, skyscrapers sprouting like mushrooms, lively streets with countless taxis, Mickey Mouse on TV... these are all signs of an economy that, albeit hesitantly, is moving towards a capitalist system: the capital Pyongyang is going through an historically unique period of growth. In an attempt to rid itself of the old soviet-style greyness, the city is changing from the bottom up to give itself a new image, quite as though Pyongyang had understood that it too has arrived in the 21st century.

This silent revolution, due in part to the female population which has discovered Western products, also promotes cultural exchange. One example of this development is the concert last summer by the rock group ''Laibach'', which marked a truly historic event, considering that Western music is banned in North Korea. Possession of foreign CDs and DVDs is also strictly punished by the regime which sees them as a corrupting poison for North Korean society.

Between the "Juche" ideology and National Socialism: there are concentration camps for actual and suspected regime opponents; convinced of the superiority of the Korean race, citizens are forbidden to have friendly relations with foreigners. I have encountered this reality, but over time I was also able to build small but significant friendships in North Korea. Through these I discovered true humanity in people living under this monstrous Stalinist system.

Dreams revolve not only around freedom, but also around a hope of reunification with their southern brother. This is not a forbidden subject in Pyongyang. During an interview with a student, she made it abundantly clear that every Korean was obliged to strive for reunion.

This dream, though, constantly clashes with reality, as I realized when visiting the Panmunjom border in March 2013: on the one side we saw South Korean military exercises, on the other continuous provocations by North Korea. Which is why, after all, this is considered the most dangerous border in the world.

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North Korea in Color 001
By Ulrik Pedersen
13 Jun 2014

Across Pyongyang people wait in long lines for buses to arrive.

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North Korea in Color 002
By Ulrik Pedersen
13 Jun 2014

Old jet fighters on an airstrip in northern North Korea. The military equipment in North Korea is outdated and it is unclear how well it works.

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North Korea in Color 003
By Ulrik Pedersen
13 Jun 2014

The landscape in Northern North Korea is varied, green and mountainous.

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North Korea in Color 004
By Ulrik Pedersen
13 Jun 2014

A framed family portrait in a local house in northern North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 005
By Ulrik Pedersen
12 Jun 2014

This truck runs on firewood and/or coal, due to a lack of gasoline which has to be imported. The government has limited access to dollars with which to import goods such as gasoline.

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North Korea in Color 006
By Ulrik Pedersen
12 Jun 2014

Chilbo, North Korea Flight attendants from Air Koryo, North Korea's national airline

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North Korea in Color 007
By Ulrik Pedersen
12 Jun 2014

A rural village among rice fields which is the stable food of North Korea. The government is trying to let farmers have 30% of their harvest.

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North Korea in Black and White 001
By Ulrik Pedersen
11 Jun 2014

many soldiers are visiting mount Pakteu due to it's history and importance for Koreans. North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 002
By Ulrik Pedersen
11 Jun 2014

Mount Pakteu, in the state's official history as the birthplace of Kim Jong-il, is located at the border between China and North Korea. North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 008
By Ulrik Pedersen
11 Jun 2014

Mount Pakteu with a clear view of the lake. Mount Pakteu is believed to be the birthplace of Korea, and has a holy place in the nation's history.

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North Korea in Color 009
By Ulrik Pedersen
11 Jun 2014

Soldiers taking pictures of each other at Mount Pakteu in northern North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 003
By Ulrik Pedersen
11 Jun 2014

with the importance of Mt. Pakteu in the history of Korea many soldiers are walking to the top on a daily basis. Mount Pakteu, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 004
By Ulrik Pedersen
10 Jun 2014

an ice skating ring has been built in Pyongyang for all to use. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 005
By Ulrik Pedersen
10 Jun 2014

residents walking around one of the mainy squares of Pyongyang. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 010
By Ulrik Pedersen
09 Jun 2014

One of the pins that all people in North Korea are required to wear. They can choose between different designs but it is compulsory to wear one of these pins every day.

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North Korea in Color 011
By Ulrik Pedersen
09 Jun 2014

A tractor at a cooperative farm around Hamhung. There are a mix of Chinese and North Korean tractors but no fuel so the vehicles are idle.

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North Korea in Color 012
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Jun 2014

A female worker in the metro in Hamhung's fertiliser factory, one of the two fertiliser factories in North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 013
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Jun 2014

Hamhung Fertilizer Factory including propaganda posters. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 006
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Jun 2014

an almost empty main square in Hamhung. with no dollars for fuel there are very few cars in most of North Korea. Hamhung, North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 012
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Jun 2014

A female worker in the metro in Hamhung's fertiliser factory, one of the two fertiliser factories in North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 007
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Jun 2014

with limited dollars to buy fuel any chance to get a ride is used outside Hamhung. Hamhung, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 008
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Jun 2014

people gather to work in the rice fields during planting season. Hamhung, North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 014
By Ulrik Pedersen
07 Jun 2014

A newspaper at a ski resort with a picture of Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 015
By Ulrik Pedersen
07 Jun 2014

Propaganda posters the type of which can be seen across the country.

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North Korea in Black and White 009
By Ulrik Pedersen
07 Jun 2014

Woman in Wosan in front of pictures of the president and general. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 010
By Ulrik Pedersen
07 Jun 2014

tram passing by children in Pyongyang. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 016
By Ulrik Pedersen
06 Jun 2014

Residents relaxing in the Kaeson Youth Park . The amusement park was opened in 1984.

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North Korea in Color 017
By Ulrik Pedersen
06 Jun 2014

A couple's marriage photoshoot in rural Hamhung.

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North Korea in Black and White 011
By Ulrik Pedersen
06 Jun 2014

shoes and shirts of school children singing at children's games days. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 012
By Ulrik Pedersen
06 Jun 2014

cool girl at day where students where competing in different disciplines. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Color 018
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

The Pyongyang skyline dominated by the impressive pyramid hotel. Building started in 1987 but is apparently finished now.

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North Korea in Color 019
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

A female worker waits for a train in the metro in Pyongyang. The metro has 2 lines and 17 stations in total.

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North Korea in Color 020
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

The view of Kim Il Sung Square with the Taedong river and Juche tower in the background. Huge parades are held at the square in homage to the 'beloved leader'.

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North Korea in Black and White 013
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

man reading a free newspaper in the metro. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 014
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

school children walking up the stairs of the Russian inspired metro station. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 015
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

access tunnel to Pyongyang metro. The metro was opened in 1969. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 016
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

across Pyongyang people are waiting for busses either due to low number of busses or bad planning . Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 017
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

High school students walking together in Pyongyang. Pyongyang, North Korea.

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North Korea in Black and White 018
By Ulrik Pedersen
05 Jun 2014

family walking during harsh sunshine on the streets of Pyongyang . Pyongyang, North Korea.