North Korea remains one of the most illusive and mysterious countries in the world. Kim Jong-Un’s despotic family has seen the country retain its closed-door policy for decades now. The closest you will get to seeing this last remaining strand of Soviet-style communism is a five day tour that is heavily monitored – the occasional traveller is given the vision that Kim Jong-Un wants you to see.
Featured Image VIA
But as the internet makes access to the outside world easier and various prisoners have made it past the heavily militerised borders, the truth has seeped through, making us aware of the widespread poverty and the use of strict military enforcement across the country. It sounds like a truly terrifying place to live – like a real-life account of George Orwell’s ‘1984’.
While it would be fascinating to gain access to the inside of this mysterious country, you’d be looking at around £1,000 for a few days of strict programmed tours. The sites below instead give a more honest insight into the country. The sinister history and political stigma surrounding the Hermit Kingdom is reflected in its buildings, particularly the relics that have been left abandoned at a time when the communist wave was sweeping across this area of the world. Now many structures remain destroyed or untouched, lingering as ghosts of the communist era:
We can’t talk about North Korea and not mention the Ryugyong Hotel. This unfinished 105-story skyscraper, located in the capital city Pyongyang, has stood as an empty shell since 1987, when the country attempted to build this giant structure as a Cold War reaction against the construction of the world’s tallest hotel in Singapore. However, when the Soviet bloc collapsed, so did North Korea’s funding, meaning they were unable to carry on with its construction.
Despite continuous announcements of plans to complete the hotel, so far nothing has come from it. Instead, this hideous structure remains an eyesore on the city’s skyline, almost like an embarrassing metaphor for the country’s failure and turmoil that continues to this day.
A couple of years back, Swedish photographer Bjvrn Bergman managed to obtain a visa into the country where he secretly snapped a motorway that runs from the capital, Pyongyang, to the border with South Korea. The astonishing images show locals hand-cleaning the eight-lane 160km long highway in celebration of Kim Jung Il’s 100-year anniversary, despite the fact that it is unused and empty of traffic.
These photos, juxtaposed with the images of rural areas, are a shocking insight into the state of desperation and poverty within the country.
Former Korean Worker’s Party Office
Although the abandoned site of the former Korean Worker’s Party Office is now situated in South Korea, it used to be a part of North Korea before the region of Cheorwon (where the ruins remain) was cut into two.
The building, which is still open for visitors today, was once used by North Korea’s Workers’ Party as its headquarters. The dull, grey concrete and high-rise windows reflect the traits of a communist structure. Bullet holds can be found on the interior as a chilling reminder of the hundreds of anti-communist citizens killed and tortured within its walls.
The town of Kijong-dong
This is a bit of a weird one. On the outside North Korea’s Kijong-dong looks like any normal village, but in fact this site, situated in the guarded border (the Demilitarized Zone), is actually a ghost village that is believed to be a decoy for luring in South Korean defectors – hence its name ‘Propaganda Village’.
Despite North Korea claiming this town has 200 residents, observers from the South say that Kijong-dong is completely fake, the buildings are concrete shells with no windows and the only people in sight are the maintenance workers who sweep the streets to look as if the town is inhibited. North Korea just loves a good lie, don’t they?
The Mangyongdae Funfair
OK, so Mangyongdae isn’t strictly abandoned, but it is abandoned-looking and judging by the completely slack health and safety restrictions, most people would argue that this place should not be open to the public.
Located just 12 kilometres from the country’s capital, Pyongyang, this funfair of delights is filled with rusty and decrepit rides.
Due to the minimal traffic of visitors each year, the rides are allegedly just fixed as and when is needed (you know, as in they’ll sort it out when someone dies or whatever) and local farmers are often called in to test out the machines. Funfair? Fuck yeah.
If anything, looking through these eerie sites has just fed my thirst to visit the country even more. I guess it’s time to get saving. For more insights into this fascinating country, check out this guy’s mini-documentary on his trip to North Korea.