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Landscapes of North Korea

I was recently approached by a South Korean magazine interested in publishing some of my photographs from a 2014 journey to North Korea. While the project ultimately fell through, it got me looking back over the sketches and photos I had taken during the trip. Some of my favourite photographs were from a series of panoramic landscapes I took from bus and train windows as we toured the country.

In Pyongyang, The Grand People’s Study House.

The Juche Tower, a monument in central Pyongyang dedicated to the North Korean concept of self-sufficient economic development.

Commuters queue up for the bus in Pyongyang.

The ancient, crumbling rubble mountains of the Korean peninsula are laid bare in the late winter. 

On the northern side of the DMZ, just a few kilometres from the border with South Korea, a few lonely buildings sit amidst the rice fields.

An hour outside of Pyongyang, soldiers pull double-duty as construction workers on a new university complex.

Throughout the countryside, the remains of bombed-out infrastructure from the Korean War still stand, alongside rebuilt roads and bridges.

Extensive erosion damage is a ubiquitous feature of the North Korean landscape. The geology of North Korea is not particularly friendly to farming in the first place, and heavy agricultural deforestation in the 90’s led to a string of devastating floods and droughts which continue to this day, although during the time of my visit there were intensive replanting efforts underway by the government. 

A compound of regional government buildings in a small town northwest of Pyongyang.

The Yalu River separates the North Korean city of Sinuiju from the Chinese city Dandong, spanned by the as-yet unfinished New Yalu River Bridge. The bridge’s construction, much like Sino-Korean relations, has been stalled for nearly a decade. 

View of Dandong from Shinuiju. At night, the entire city glows like Las Vegas, while the Koreans answer with their own display of flickering holiday lights.

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