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The Less Depressive Side of North Korea: Girls, Beaches, and … Weird Restaurants?


When the photographer Aram Pan went to North Korea, he thought he’d only see gray, depressive cityscapes, with equally sad-looking people living there. You know, just like every documentary in the world told us.

He always wanted to see North Korea with his own eyes, so he started sending them emails begging to let him in. And when he finally got in, he couldn’t believe how different it all looked from those documentaries.

Inside the communist enclave Pan saw lively streets with markets, people having fun on the beach and just hanging out. He claims that none of what he saw was a farce or a mere “decoration”, as he was allowed to move freely and would have noticed if something was wrong.



1. This is Munsu water park in Pyongyang: colorful water slides, pools and artificial waterfalls. As you can see it’s wildly popular among the citizens.



2. All suited up, there Korean gentlemen are just enjoying a sunny day and having some ice cream. Nothing like the “starving North Koreans” you see on TV.

3. Girls in swimsuits throwing sand, nice and clean beach, some people riding bikes… But, again, no sign of poverty, and all that bad rap from the media.



4. That’s Aram Pan’s selfie.

5. Breath-taking view from the Kumgangsan mountain (1640 m)



6. This might be the only place to get the coolest hairdo in Korea.

7. Electrical appliances such as steam cookers, TVs, microwaves, etc. are just starting to become popular (and soon will be vital) among the North Koreans.



8. If people in your country play volleyball on the beach – you’re not in a 3rd world country anymore.

9. Fireworks – a big finish of the “Arirang” festival – a huge annual music/gymnastics performance taking place on one of the biggest NK stadiums.



10. Just some random girl under her um-brella-ella-ella-ey-ey.

11. Can you guess what this is? Yup, this is a statue of a horse. Good job, Pan.



12. A great view at Pyongyang from hotel Yanggakdo.

13. A sweet sunny day in Kaesong, not too far from the South Korean border.



14. In this spot families from both South and North Korea can get together.

15. Meari Shooting Range is a unique restaurant where you’ll need to shoot your dinner before eating it.



16. Looks like it’s harvesting time.

17. One of the most unusual dished Pan had a chance to try in North Korea – benzin-doused clams. Not a fan of that idea, personally.



18. The earliest of mornings…

19. Work stops at 6, and after that it’s party time! A communist party, that is!



20. This is the Pyongyang subway with a bunch of people waiting to go to work or school.

21. Just like any other subway, it seems. Well, maybe except for the NYC subway, but that’s a subject for another day.



22. Just like any other fairly developed city, Pyongyang streets are full of cars and busses.

23. And here we can see even more cars! Again, great photo, Pan.



So, have you changed your mind about North Korea? If so, let us know in the comments!