Storyteller Series: Instagram's @EverydayDPRK and Life Inside North Korea

This post launches a new blog series highlighting the work of gifted storytellers who are using journalism, photography, video games, animation, music, literature and more to unlock new worlds -- real and imagined.

During my four years as a reporter and editor in Beijing, China, I began to develop a more-than-casual interest in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of China's most important allies in Asia and one of the world's most isolated countries.

I ordered books about North Korea from Amazon, half-expecting Chinese censors to bar the shipments from arriving. (They didn't.)

I read and watched Chinese state media reports about the DPRK, soaking in their relatively few fleeting images and video clips shot within North Korea.

During a short trip to South Korea, I toured the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where for a few moments, I (safely) set foot on North Korean soil. I remember looking across the border to the top of a gray, concrete building, where a father, mother and daughter (or so it seemed) took turns watching our tour group with a pair of binoculars. 

After returning to the U.S., one of my former colleagues in Beijing, Jiang Han, sent me a travel essay she had written about a week-long tour of North Korea she and her husband had taken. She included photographs from their trip and recounted stories of how she was scolded by their North Korean handlers for taking photos of prohibited objects and scenery.

I ate up all of these long-distance "encounters" with North Korea, and they slowly helped to bring the country into better focus. However, none brought me closer to the reality of the country than the remarkable, collaborative work of the photographers who contribute to the @EverydayDPRK Instagram account.

Photos of Humanity

The account was started by David Guttenfelder, a prize-winning National Geographic Photographer who used to work for the Associated Press in North Korea.

In the photos posted to this account, we see glimpses into the lives of ordinary North Koreans. Spending time absorbing their details has helped me -- more than ever before -- see the humanity of a nation often portrayed through an impersonal, 
political lens.

What follows are a few of my favorite recent shots from the Instagram account. Be sure to follow @EverydayDPRK, and also check out the EverydayDPRK Facebook Page.

In this blog series, Charlie highlights the work of gifted storytellers who are using journalism, photography, video games, animation, music, literature and more to unlock new worlds -- real and imagined.

In this blog series, Charlie highlights the work of gifted storytellers who are using journalism, photography, video games, animation, music, literature and more to unlock new worlds -- real and imagined.