Rare Images Show A Side Of North Korea That Outsiders Rarely See

North Korea Human SideJoseph Ferris in North Korea.

Photo: Joseph Ferris via Flickr

Joseph Ferris doesn’t want to settle down.Ferris earned himself a US Coast Guard 3rd Mate Unlimited licence from Maine Maritime Academy, and took a job on a global class research ship.

There was just one problem: the job was seven months on with five months vacation.

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“While on the ship, room and board goes with the job; I found keeping an apartment and all the trappings of a settled life is a waste of money,” Ferris told Business Insider.

So he took another job, as a tour guide … in North Korea.

“My involvement In North Korea started in 2011 soon after the North Korea granted unlimited year round access to Americans on tourist visas,” said Ferris. “With help from one of the major North Korean tour companies I simply worked as a tour group leader to arrange and fill my own private trips there in 2011 and 2012.”

Ferris took up photography, and that’s how we got these photos — through his blog AmericanInNorthKorea.

“I came back with photos that seemed to really tell a different story about the people of North Korea – their human side,” said Ferris.

Ferris started his own blog in some ways to counter all the less-than-accurate information floating around out there. Mainly though, he was just interested in documenting his experiences.

Ferris has now officially fallen in with a tour group called Young Pioneer Tours and plans to one day retire and find a place where old tour guides can “drink North Korean beer on the beach.”

Yes. There is such a thing as North Korean beer. There’s many things most folks don’t know about North Korea.

This is the North Korea we Americans normally see.

And here's the one Joseph Ferris sees.

Thoughts of North Korea don't normally conjure colours.

A lot of North Korea seems like a blast from the past — when's the last time a parasol was used in the U.S.?

Even their bicycles seem like something out of the 1800s.

But look, billboards with modern cars.

There's also the Arirang Mass Games ...

A synchronised, highly practiced dance and show put on with use of nearly 100,000 participants.

Singers ...

... drummers ...

... and dancers throwing wild kicks.

There is certainly a military, socialism theme going on ...

But in the same breath there are individual faces in the crowd.

Joe also attended, believe it or not, the first ever ultimate Frisbee mass competition. He called it 'Frisbee diplomacy,' which included ...


And a bobbing for apples competition.

Here a group of kids all jump at once for a Frisbee outside the shot.

Even soldiers have time for rollercoasters.

There were also many celebrations for the 100th year birthday celebrations for Kim Il Sung.

The new Kim Jong-il mural with new Pyongyang Mansudae Housing given to the people for the 100th year birthday celebrations.

Pyongyang's Kaeson Youth Park fun fair draws crowds from all around.

The park is for children's recreation and exercise.

Some will take dance classes.

It takes a lot of practice.

Sure they live beneath an often ornery dictator, but they still get married.

They learn fun songs from 'kindergarten' teachers.

They grow up.

They shoot cell phone videos.

Work in factories.

Men and women alike.

Text and ... ride bikes.

Go for cart rides.

They have traffic cops.

And fishermen.

They even have internet cafes.

And arcades, where kids play and mothers watch ... although the game looks like it's from the 80s.

They have fairs with bb-guns and targets and excited little kids.

There's art.

And poultry.

There are of course a few things Americans don't understand, like state-owned labour.

Mandatory enlistments.

Educations in shadows cast by statues of dictators.

They do have a one of the world's biggest militaries.

In that crowd though ...

Ferris sees hidden faces.

Tries to capture them as accurately as possible.

And then return from whence he came, sometimes even aboard rickety old soviet airliners that smoke.

Now that you've seen the human side of North Korea ...

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