North Korea - an insider view

17 March 2011

Edward Pietrzyk, Ambassador of Poland to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) illustrated his personal impression of North Korea with a series of photographs. He stressed the resourcefulness, openness and friendliness of average people of North Korea.

The photographs presented the omnipresent state’s ideology and propaganda, which are designed to mobilise the people in their struggle to build a prosperous country. The cult of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, who died in 1994, is still very pronounced. 

Photographs of Pyongyang, the capital, portrayed the empty 105-floor Ryugyong Hotel and the Arch of Triumph built of white granite, which is larger than the Parisian original it is modeled after. The wide streets of the city still lack congested traffic, and the public transport system (although significantly out-of-date) serves hundreds of thousands of Pyongyang commuters on their everyday route to and from work.

Referring to the labour issue, the ambassador said that all citizens are required to perform additional work for the total of one month for the sake of the local community. Children also have their own obligations to the society irrespective of their duties at school. The current food crisis is a matter of fact, and the difficult situation has led many to sell agricultural produce in town and village markets.

Despite all the difficulties the ambassador could observe signs of joy and happiness on the faces of the people of North Korea. ‘There is a lot of joy’, he said. People treasure their Juche pins, symbol of the idea that underlies the country’s political philosophy. Most people are members of the party organisation and there were photographs of some of young people who make up the five million members strong Socialist Youth League.

The Ambassador alluded to similarities between North Korea and Poland after WWII. He said the special bilateral relationship is deeply rooted in the past when Poland after the Korean War in 1953 invited many young North Koreans to Poland despite its own poverty.