FRONTLINE/WORLD . flashPOINT . North Korea . PBS

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The photos are beautiful, but I do want to comment that the photos are limited to the subjects inside the capital city, where people live in conditions that are far better than those outside Pyongyang, and the DMZ. The audience needs to recognize that this is a portrait of the country's elites.

Joliet, Illinois
Excellent work. It's great to see the inside workings of this country which has been a mystery for so long.

Viewing this was very sad for me because the North Korean people looked so beautiful and so peaceful but so restricted in their ability to to be themselves and to be free. To me, they looked like birds in a cage, very sad.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Thank you so much for your effort. I cannot express enough my deep gratitude to you for your heroic trips to North Korea. As a Korean-American, I hope your courageous works on this site will encourage many a would-be helper for suffering North Koreans. May God bless you!


The photos helped us to look at the North Korea from ordinary people's eyes.

I want you all to know about the real North Korea. I, on behalf of some migrants from North Korea who are now in China and South Korea, am speaking to you all.

It is the most secretive nation in the world and is ruled by a one-man-king who is shown as the hero of the nation. His crimes go hidden and the world knows nothing about it.

I have seen the real countryside where children are deprived of food coming from the UN and these foods are sold in black markets rather, and children wait for the grains left on the road to take.

The people cannot go outside the country. Still they flee to South Korea and China. Hundreds die in the process of crossing over to these countries from bullets or the chilling river.

There are hostels in North Korea which keep children who are hungry and of no use to the nation. They are left like those in concentration camps. They die from hunger there.

Photography on roads is restricted. Journalists are barred from entering anything without permission.

You will not find a single North Korean using the internet to spread these things because nobody is so foolish as to want to die. Even if he dares to tell the truth, he won't to save his family.

I am only telling the tip of the iceberg. You may find out more.

There needs to be awareness about all this. The North Korean leaders are as bad as Saddam and Hitler. As fellow humans, please investigate this if you do not believe me. God save us.

Las Piedras, Puerto Rico
On behalf of the North Korean Diaspora world wide, thank you for this great reporting.

Fréjus, France
Excellent photo-essay -- and very scary indeed. Having visited North Korea myself a few times,the photos seems to depict very realistically the oppreseed and brain-washed population.

Excellent piece of history captured. Hopefully one day this will be much antiquated and something of an unforgotten past. There's much to thank that the world is changing and millions will never have to face this type of regime again.

winnipeg, manitoba
Right now I am searching for information about North Korea and i find this video very well done. However there seems to be missing some pictures of people dying of famine and diseases. Having to be forced into the army is just too much. I don't get why the government is so serious about forcing people into the military. I hope this ends soon.

Abbasi .
Islamabad, Punjab

Nice work.

Bold-Erdene Tungalagtuya
Undurkhaan, Mongolia

Stunning work!

Cavity, phillipines
These pictures are powerful. Keep up the good work.

Salinas, CA
It made me want to cry. WHY do governments restrict what people can see or hear? Only the guilty need to hide. The innocent have nothing to fear because the truth sets them free. Even though it is propaganda, I was moved by the beautiful singing in the clip. Even though it is music meant to imprison the Korean mind, for some strange reason I would like to hear more. I want to hear the little girl play her accordion for me. A hammer, a sickle, and a brush. Those are very powerful symbols, if only this country were living what these symbols represent. If this country is truly living by these principles, then it has no need to hide. On the contrary, they need to display it to the world loudly and proudly. Maybe it could serve as an example to the West. Or maybe they could learn a few things. But these pictures depict something different. As if each person had an invisible yoke around their heads...

michael marfori

I think North Korea is a very interesting country that I would like to visit someday. May the two Korea's someday unite again

nahla kenawy

You only keep watching and wondering how the events could very quickly change there.

Govinda Chaudhary

Photos are nice.I really appreciate your work.You are trying to show the view of North Korea but it seems photos are only of Capital, life for peoples outside capital might be very difficult.

M m
skopje, m

Would love to visit this country. It's another world, beside the politics, it's a great country to visit. If somebody want to travel together in North Korea ,email me...I would love to!


seoul, south korea
North korea is very poor...South Korea is wealthy.
I don't want a united Korea!

hassan ebadi
tehran, borj milad

thank you for this

alabang, philippines
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the man behind this picture.He serves his nation in a simple way and shares his views to the people around the globe. He visualized his dream that someday Korea will be united.. May Allah guide us all.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Superb images, and chilling. I spent a year and a half in South Korea, and sadly, the distant, mechanical look on the faces of the adults in these photos is present on the faces of most South Koreans as well. The children seem happier in both places however. ..

faisal maqsood
kualalumpur, selangor,malaysia

You have showed us what N Korea is unlike the BBC or CNN, or the American propaganda channels. Thank you for this effort.

Ali Khan
Peshawar, pakistan

I wish for a united Korean nation.

Seoul, South Korea

Let there be permanent peace in the two divided countries, North and South. Let there be no arms and soldiers.

Jina Kim
zimbabwe, africa

I wish that South and North Korea would unite. The people in the North are treated like dogs! South Korea was willing to unite, but what the heck is wrong with the North?!! I dont get it.

karachi, sindh
It gives a very true picture of how it is to live a life in NK. I did a project presentation on US-NK negotiations on the nuclear issue yesterday. If I had seen this before I would have made my whole class see this during the presentation. Alas I saw it late!

But still good to see :)and know!

Looking at the pics from North Korea still makes me sad. Itīs kind of my wish to go there, but Iīm afraid.

Leonid Petrov
Canberra, Australia

Photographer Dong Lin claims that North Koreans did not allow him to take pictures of people, particularly military people. That's true but NOT only for North Korea. South Koreans too, especially those who live in the province, do not like to be photographed.

Try to take a picture of South Korean soldiers or a military installation near the DMZ and you will risk to lose your camera.

Many Koreans are shy and conservative by nature. Korea (both in the North and South) is still dominated by the lingering effect of the rampant civil conflict. When you visit Korea, a great deal of sensitivity is needed. When you photograph it, try to see why so many things are presented in black and white.


Han Sol Kim

Nicely done. I really wish the North and South Re-unite. It's not because of the country, but it's because of history. Something happened long time ago that led to this.

bhimber azad kashmir, azad kashmir
Excellent work. I have no words to express my appreciation.

Hamid Yasee

What about China itself? Look at what China is doing in East Turkmenistan and other countries. No one is saying any thing about them. Why ?

sao paulo, sp
Thank you very much!

This is definitely interesting. I never knew North Korea has such a beautiful architecture. Whoah. I am amazed by it. I hope one day they would completely open their doors to foreign people.


Thank you. This is very good. I'd like to see more photos like this. Keep up the good work.

Amazing fact to me is that human beings seem quite adept and accustomed in any given environments regardless of their actual situation. I am sure that even in the Nazi's concentration camps, some people probably kept hope and even smiled. Cruel world!

nigeria, niger
I love your country.

Pavel R.
Tabor, Czech Republic

I think these people live in a huge fear. They cannot say their real thoughts to anybody. Nobody can believe in anybody. They canīt smile, they canīt laugh. It is unbelievable horror nightmare for 20 million people. We have to do something about this. You cannot find anywhere so many unhappy people in one place. Really so much sadness.

Pavel Rybarik
Tabor, Czech Republic

You cannot compare the regime in North Korea with communists former Czechoslovakia. In Korea people are killed in concentration camps, for heavenīs sake :-) You have to inform yourself better about the brutality of the Kims.

Karachi, Sindh
In my opinion they will become the super power after China.

iiya r
iligan city, philippines

The pictures are beautiful. It actually captures the sadness in people's eyes. It gives people a glimpse of what is inside N. Korea. I wish N. Korea would be free someday.

santosh kumar vijayan
bhosari, maharashtara

Every country has their own values, beliefs and principals... But the U.N. should also have their office of human rights every place in Korea.

Islamabad, Capital
I wish for a united Korean nation.

Quezon City, Philippines
Everyone pray for North Korea to dismantle its dangerous forces and lead the way for reunification as a means for peace.

dagupan, Philippines
Great one!

Zeeshan Shaikh

Nice pics. It gives a very true picture of how it is to live a life in NK.
I did a project presentation on US-NK negotiations on the nuclear issue yesterday. If I had seen this before I would have made my whole class see this during the presentation. Alas I saw it late!

But still good to see :)and know!

cold flame
calcutta, west bengal

Picture perfect is what I can say. Communism or democracy, it's one nation's point of view. It's up to its people to decide. What's the USA's problem? They can be super partial. They believe any country that is nuclear capable is a threat to them. But what about the USA nuclear program and their ever increasing defence budget? Why can't she just stop interfering and let all of us alone in peace?

egay moren
cavite, philippines

I've been in Cuba but not in N. Korea but it looks almost the same. With today's food shortages I wonder how they survive? I feel sorry for the people but not for their leader.

ethiopia, woldya
I learned something from this. Thank you.

Besides this clip, there's one shown by National Geographic about North Korea where the small children are being taught to hate the Americans. I wonder when the South is going to [attack] the North.

manila philippines
It's so beautiful to see North Korea, but I don't believe that north and south will reunited again. Being a good Protestant in my religion, I believe that "united we stand, divided we fall" and do not want Mindanao, in my country, the Philippines, to separate from our fatherland. God bless us all.

rohit khan
kathmandu, New nagari

Good program and good pictures.

new york, newyork
A stupid country, that one is.

Thank you for this.

muli mativo
nairobi, kenya

The peninsula question began when a given system was never given a chance to prove itself -- attacked right from inception it could only turn delinquent. Give the system a new face and a chance.

Chen Bo
TaiYuan, China

It's a beautiful county, I think they need more help and love.I hope that South Korea and North Korea can be united as soon as possible, and that the same will happen for China and Taiwan. One world,one dream.

Let us break the weapons. I love peace.

We Chinese do bless Koreans and hope they become stronger and richer, but as a college student,I admire the smile in their faces.

Rodriguez, Rizal
The pictures definitely represent the culture of North Korea as being a communist country. The people are so serious,too disciplined...

Christian N
Jakarta, DKI

Really nice pictures.Finally, I can know the Local North Korea situation. before this, i didn't know the North Korea Situation

Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic
Very touching. It reminds me of our country under the same regime years ago. But the reactions at the forum here are sometimes very naive. Why would you think that people there shouldn't smile or laugh? It is very tough to live in such an "order" (I did for 22 years] but on the other hand it cultivates very deep sense of intelligent humor as an internal self-defense.

Beautiful photographs. The people look very nice. I like the orderly feel of the life there.

Yu-mi Shin
Seoul, South Korea

It's so nice to see that place again. Well, I have been there and I felt that they live in very poor circumstances. I want them to be happy and I hope S Korea and N korea can be united.

mohd ariff syed abdul kader
Singapore, Singapore

Every country deserves their right to defend their own country as long as it wasn't threatening to others. We believe they can build strong relationships with other world of people so as to be recognised internationally.

Ker Rivales
Manila, Philippines

It is indeed heartbreakingly beautiful. He managed to capture the depressing beauty of loneliness, I could almost imagine the conscious effort of some of them to suppress unacceptable desires, thoughts, or memories from their minds.

It is very beautiful reportage that shows a close up look into the country. Though the people looks emotionless, some of them were looking quite interesting and open to photographer. It sounds very strange to me knowing that there is a country on the edge of the continent which maintains a deep rooted dictatorship. Maybe people there like to be controlled under, for them, the "save roof". Because they don't know the other way of living. Otherwise, they would react by now.

lalaine diwa
manila, phil

if the North Koreans really wanted to isolate themselves then they should stop receiving help from other countries. They want to receive but they don't want to give.

Johor, Malaysia
Very lucky to be able to have a glance of North Korea, thanks to our brave photographer

rizal o'doneil
jakarta, indonesia

The unmemorable moment for their life ever.

manila, PI

Can't you give them opportunity to live happily and free from fear?

Hanoi, Vietnam
Good personal expression. People have their own choice. I found myself guilty when I was a boy I encouraged the other two boys fighting. Then I was terrified by the aftermath.

viktor fekete
gabcikovo, slovakia

I was there. The totalitarian system of Kim Jong Il. Poor people, no cars, empty shops, but the people are very nice, just not lucky .

edgar abrea
manila, phil

Beautiful place, but the people look sad. I hope someday that north and south Korea will unite as one country.

Astana, Kazakhstan

Captivating! Thank you for showing the people this little secret world. Now I'd like to go there and see all of this with my own eyes!Thank you a lot!!!

In contrast to many of the contributors above, as I watched these photos I was amazed at the number of people who looked truly happy! Certainly, there were many grim faces; but I saw at least 5 photos with smiling faces within. This shocked me - partly because I've never seen photos of North Korean people with happy faces, and partly because i wonder how the Korean people can be happy in such an oppressive society.

Sean Perkins
Denver, CO

Great work, thanks so much for doing this. I don't think you should go back, now that they will know what you were up to.

H Zhang
San Jose, CA

As always, Dong Lin has sharp eyes on his subjects. As we can see from these pictures, people are not necessarily unhappy in this environment. Then again, the question is do you want to be happy bird inside a cage?

Phil Bales
columbus, IN

Chilling photos. Very disillusioning of any hope for the life of the ordinary people in this country. The single most noteworthy impression is that every statue, poster or impression of the leadership is so massive. This emphasizes the "larger than life" quality of the state officials, underscoring the requirement that they be seen as godlike. This makes me very grateful for the US Constitution. I appreciate the sacrifice of our founders who established our way of life. God help us to hold fast to the freedoms we enjoy in the USA.

las vegas, nevada
I love this! Thanks! We were talking about this at school (my teacher is strange and somethimes bring things up out of no where, but this time its because she accidentally asked our new student -- who happens to be from Korea he is so cute!! lol -- if he was from North or South Korea. So she felt stupid and we started talking about this. I had no idea that there are two sides to Korea and that one of them was a secret time place!

Los Angeles, CA

For all wondering how? It's so quiet and ordered there without discord because any dissent is taken care of very quietly.

I wonder what it would be like for North Korea's leader to live under the same rules he has placed down for his people. Would he resent his ruler? Probably. Would he miss his power? Definitely. Would he follow the rules? No. for those in positions of power, it is hard to see the psychological effects of their own actions until they are the victim. For all those photos of the solid brick buildings, it is really just one solid person imposing his will on an entire nation. It is strange to see this pictures while living in an American culture, as it is hard to grasp the feelings of the people living there. Just as the leader must find it hard to live by his own rules. I hope that little girl's smile never goes away, even if she never shows it in public.

Jake Allen
Allen, TX

Many of the pictures Dong Lin captured secretly are stunning. The architecture, landscape, and people there are beautiful. However, it is a very strange society in that all the people have a sullen, emotionless look about them. I don't quite understand how that many people can be so completely controlled. This story is so fascinating to me in that I did not really know that much about North Korea and its laws, people, customs, and its overall society. I thought it strange how the leader of the country is plastered everywhere and there is no disruption among the people against him. I am fascinated by the amount of following without dissonance. How is this country so controlled with so much more of the world out there? I do not understand how the people don't know about the rest of the world and don't rebel at all against their confinement.

Wenli Liu
Dallas, TX

Dong lin, Your work is great, as usual. I really enjoy "reading" all these photos. You are very brave to go there doing this project, you know. Thanks for letting us see through your viewfinder.

Janice Sisco
San Francisco, CA

This is an excellent glimpse into the lives of North Koreans. What I notice most of all is the serious faces, not very happy, with the exception of the children. A great piece of work Dong, great photos! Nicely done.

Joann Franklin-Knox
San Rafael, California

Dong Lin's work is remarkable. His sensitivity to the cultural environment he is covering. He tells an informative story so well. I admire his talent and courage.

British Columbia, Canada

I had difficulty hearing Dong speak on the clip but reading the interview and background segments helped. I am sure the black and white shots contributed somewhat to my impressions but bleak seems apt. The people are very thin, unsmiling and the landscape and buildings, although very clean, are spartan. Kim Jong-il, on the other hand, is robust. The clip certainly reflects the fact that one in four people are in the military.

Great video, but the flash program needs to be reworked. It would have been nice to use a bar to move from one point of the slide show to another.

Elizabeth Reynolds
Joplin, MO

Wow! I noticed how there are no overweight people. I think that as a country we are overindulgent and wasteful by choice and opportunity, but they are starving without a choice.

Philadelphia, PA
Lisa Ling a former co-host on The View, came to Penn State University to talk tonight and she had mentioned her experience in North Korea. She described the strict laws and the lack of communication that the country is under. It's sad.

Songtan, South Korea
Re: one of the comments...."and the structure with the sicle, hammer and torch"
It's not a's a brush used in Korean calligraphy. Hammer = Industry, Sickle = Agriculture, Brush = Education/The Arts

The human hive. Creepy.The photo that struck me most was the 'living traffic light' being imprisoned into a symbolic cage of white paint. Truly, this must be socialism pushed to the extreme. I wonder whether there's any individuality left within these people beyond the age of 30, after finishing their fulltime-service in the 'warrior caste'. And these photos are just what's meant to be shown.

I wonder how the life of the smiling girl with the accordion would have been different had she been born in South Korea.

bondi, italy
I think that this view it's very intresting and particular, I {normally] can't find something like this!

Seoul, S Korea
Sad. Real people, with real faces. Sad. They need hope, they need food, they need love, they need to smile, just like the rest of us. Let us pray for the day when they can have that ... Pilgrim

Guy RAphael
Tel aviv, israel

Beautiful and interesting. Enjoyed it. Thanks.

Rochester, Minnesota

I find the film very intresting, and it makes me want to learn more about North Korea. It's hard for me to even try to understand the way they live there.

These pictures are all impressive and captivating! You show me a totally different world that I never thought of. Great

P. Manion
Bloomfield Hills, MI

What struck me most while watching these captivating images is that we are viewing their world with a medium they may not even know exists. Is the 35 mm camera Dong used cutting edge technology to them? Or are they secretly craving the opportunity to post their own images of this facinating society.

Pete Wilt
Chicago, IL

What an erie glimpse into the twisted fringes of the far left. We should all be very skeptical of the government, any government, that promises to do everything for its people, including telling them how to think and live. North Korea, Cuba and to a lesser extent the newly growing free markets of China and Vietnam, are thankfully the dying vestiges of the great socialist lie that began in the early part of the 20th century.

Thank you for this MOST interesting and educational view.

spokane, washington
This was a good piece. Very well done and I will be looking forward to more in the future. I spent a year in South Korea as a very young man often wondering what life was like on the other side of the border. Thank you.

Thank you for some insightful photos. The people look like robots. Very few smiles. To think about the secrets these people live under is a very scary thought. Our government needs to maintain diplomatic contact with them.

Al Redmond
Harrisburg, Pa

Though short, I liked it. I've always had a fascination with North Korea. I was stationed in South Korea in the early '80's and I find that part of the world to be very interesting. I'd really like to go back over there for a visit.

Laura Frankin
Iowa City, Iowa

Stunning work!

Completely captivating. Really gives a great glimpse into a socialist society. I kept thinking how odd it would be to see some of those propaganda posters in the US. With Bush illuminated or elevated to some sort of saint hood. Its erie in the sense that it is of the past to think that way; like antiquated. The people bowing to the statue and the structure with the sicle, hammer and torch are probably the most symbolic to me of how the belief is pretty much forced on to the people. Makes me wonder if our governments do the same just a little more covertly.