A photographer captured these surreal photos of North Korea’s capital on a state-sanctioned tour

Pyongyang vintage socialist architecture 03

The Trump administration is weighing new legislation that would ban US citizens from travelling to North Korea, following the death of American student Otto Warmbier.

Despite warnings from the US Department of State over the years that visitors stepping into the DPRK risk arrest and long-term detention, approximately 100,000 people — including some Americans — visit the hermit kingdom annually. Tourists may travel independently or go through a state-sanctioned travel agency. They are supervised from the moment they arrive.

In 2016, photographer Raphael Olivier booked an architecture-themed tour of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and captured these remarkable images.

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”/#the-first-word-that-comes-to-mind-would-be-eerie-olivier-told-business-insider-of-the-general-atmosphere-in-pyongyang-north-korea-1″
title=”‘The first word that comes to mind would be eerie,’ Olivier told Business Insider of the general atmosphere in Pyongyang, North Korea.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4909d29325008b5fb9″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”/#there-are-some-three-million-people-living-in-the-nations-capital-and-yet-most-of-oliviers-photos-show-vacant-streets-2″
title=”There are some three million people living in the nation’s capital, and yet, most of Olivier’s photos show vacant streets.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3409d293d10f8b5f99″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#he-said-people-work-study-and-keep-busy-out-of-sight-in-the-daytime-oddly-dramatic-music-blares-throughout-the-downtown-area-3″
title=”He said people work, study, and keep busy out-of-sight in the daytime. Oddly, dramatic music blares throughout the downtown area.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3f09d29330008b5f88″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#its-a-relatively-new-city-and-one-that-is-still-evolving-the-us-leveled-the-capital-during-the-korean-war-bombings-and-the-architecture-of-pyongyang-rose-from-the-rubble-after-1953-4″
title=”It’s a relatively new city and one that is still evolving. The US leveled the capital during the Korean War bombings, and the architecture of Pyongyang rose from the rubble after 1953.”
content=”Source: The Guardian
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3a09d29358008b5fcd”
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#the-countrys-founding-father-kim-il-sung-conceived-of-the-new-pyongyang-as-a-great-garden-of-juche-architecture-or-of-self-reliance-5″
title=”The country’s founding father, Kim Il-sung, conceived of the new Pyongyang as ‘a great garden of Juche architecture,’ or of self-reliance.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3509d29325008b5fb8″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=”The Ryugyong Hotel began construction in 1987. Today, it towers over the city.”
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#concrete-megastructures-painted-like-easter-eggs-dominate-the-skyline-these-towers-are-meant-to-radiate-strength-resilience-and-national-pride-according-to-olivier-6″
title=”Concrete megastructures painted like Easter eggs dominate the skyline. These towers are meant to radiate strength, resilience, and national pride, according to Olivier.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4209d2935f0f8b5f9f”
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#while-the-buildings-arent-all-that-elegant-their-intended-durability-represents-one-of-the-chief-tenets-of-juche-ideology-7″
title=”While the buildings aren’t all that elegant, their intended durability represents one of the chief tenets of Juche ideology.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4509d293e60b8b5ede”
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#the-city-is-an-incredible-showcase-of-beautifully-preserved-vintage-socialist-architecture-untouched-by-the-visual-pollution-of-commercial-advertising-billboards-flashy-retails-or-ugly-office-buildings-olivier-said-8″
title=”‘The city is an incredible showcase of beautifully preserved vintage socialist architecture, untouched by the visual pollution of commercial advertising billboards, flashy retails, or ugly office buildings,’ Olivier said.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3d09d2931b008b5f63″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#the-pyongyang-ice-rink-constructed-in-1981-looks-like-a-futuristic-wigwam-it-has-space-for-over-6000-spectators-9″
title=”The Pyongyang Ice Rink, constructed in 1981, looks like a futuristic wigwam. It has space for over 6,000 spectators.”
content=”Source: CNN
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3209d293c4058b5fc2″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#inside-olivier-found-skaters-of-various-skill-levels-killing-time-on-the-ice-portraits-of-kim-il-sung-the-countrys-first-supreme-leader-who-also-established-communism-in-north-korea-and-his-son-kim-jong-il-hang-overhead-10″
title=”Inside, Olivier found skaters of various skill levels killing time on the ice. Portraits of Kim Il-sung (the country’s first supreme leader who also established Communism in North Korea), and his son, Kim Jong-il, hang overhead.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4209d293d10f8b5f9a”
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#the-pyongyang-international-cinema-house-sits-mostly-abandoned-on-the-citys-edge-the-bare-concrete-and-sharp-edges-draw-from-the-principles-of-stalinist-neoclassical-architecture-11″
title=”The Pyongyang International Cinema House sits mostly abandoned on the city’s edge. The bare concrete and sharp edges draw from the principles of Stalinist neoclassical architecture.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3509d29327008b5fd1″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#the-theater-opens-for-special-events-such-as-the-pyongyang-international-film-festival-which-is-held-every-two-years-12″
title=”The theatre opens for special events, such as the Pyongyang International Film Festival, which is held every two years.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3a09d29326008b5ff4″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#pyongyang-is-hardly-void-of-culture-according-to-olivier-though-it-may-be-difficult-to-find-13″
title=”Pyongyang is hardly void of culture, according to Olivier, though it may be difficult to find.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4609d293d50f8b5f22″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#a-very-surprising-aspect-of-north-korea-is-how-real-simple-and-human-the-place-feels-compared-to-how-it-is-often-depicted-in-international-media-olivier-said-it-turns-out-people-on-the-ground-enjoy-singing-laughing-and-spending-time-with-family-and-friends-14″
title=”‘A very surprising aspect of North Korea is how real, simple, and human the place feels compared to how it is often depicted in international media,’ Olivier said. ‘It turns out people on the ground enjoy singing, laughing, and spending time with family and friends.'”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4509d2937a048b5ef6″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#he-also-noticed-few-people-glued-to-their-smartphones-due-in-part-to-north-koreas-chokehold-on-the-internet-it-was-strangely-refreshing-albeit-for-an-unsettling-reason-15″
title=”He also noticed few people glued to their smartphones, due in part to North Korea’s chokehold on the internet. It was ‘strangely refreshing,’ albeit for an unsettling reason.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de3a09d29330008b5f87″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#he-watched-a-man-get-a-haircut-inside-a-state-health-complex-16″
title=”He watched a man get a haircut inside a state health complex.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4809d293d50f8b5f23″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#olivier-even-caught-a-show-at-the-pyongyang-grand-theater-where-the-north-korean-revolutionary-opera-performed-17″
title=”Olivier even caught a show at the Pyongyang Grand Theatre, where the North Korean Revolutionary Opera performed.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4809d293ce178b5ede”
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#he-snapped-pictures-when-possible-mostly-at-designated-stops-on-the-tour-as-a-tourist-one-is-not-free-to-walk-around-without-guides-olivier-said-the-visited-sites-are-carefully-chosen-and-tours-are-well-planned-18″
title=”He snapped pictures when possible, mostly at designated stops on the tour. ‘As a tourist one is not free to walk around without guides,’ Olivier said. ‘The visited sites are carefully chosen and tours are well planned.'”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4709d2931a008b5fe5″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#upon-entry-to-the-country-visitors-are-instructed-on-what-they-can-and-cannot-take-pictures-of-customs-agents-inspect-your-cell-phone-and-other-digital-devices-including-cameras-tablets-and-storage-cards-for-banned-content-on-your-way-out-19″
title=”Upon entry to the country, visitors are instructed on what they can and cannot take pictures of. Customs agents inspect your cell phone and other digital devices, including cameras, tablets, and storage cards, for banned content on your way out.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4609d2931b008b5f64″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#in-pyongyang-you-see-what-the-government-lets-you-see-20″
title=”In Pyongyang, you see what the government lets you see.”
content=”Check out more of photographer Raphael Olivier’s work here.
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/57c9de4609d29326008b5ff5″
source=”Raphael Olivier”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[/slideshow]