Never before or since my short trip to North Korea have I felt so perplexed about the realities of a country. It’s easy to know certain things: it’s a hermit nation, it’s citizens have little to no access to the outside world, it’s been run by a family of despots since the end of the Korean War, and it seemingly revels in its own bad behavior, taunting the world but stopping just short of biting the hands that feed it. But like all things worth exploring, what’s on the surface can be a very shallow reflection of the place as a whole.
During my few days in country, I met some of the nicest, most intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. North Koreans, born and raised. They would talk to me about the US’s foreign policies, about Vietnam’s peculiar brand of communism, and about many other things, but they would never talk about their own country. Except to say how great their Dear & Great Leaders were, or to proclaim how they wanted for nothing in North Korea. Which, well. Obviously. It made for a perplexing read on things. Lines were blurred from the start. I would see the same people over and over again. The man in the park was also the man in the museum. That family over there was having a picnic in the woods the day before. Maybe. I think. I don’t know. In a nation where every piece of reality seems fabricated, where is the final line drawn?
So that’s what I tried to show in the photographs I took. An unreal reality. A constant fog over the eyes. Blurred edges. Shadowy figures. A constant kind of questioning. But even now, so far removed from it, I have no idea what I really saw.