Think of North Korea and you think of Kim Jong-un, nuclear missiles and propaganda.
But these new, incredible photographs offer a different view of the hermit kingdom, unveiling its hidden beauty, serenity and the normality of its residents’ daily lives.
Jong-un, supreme leader of the world’s last remaining totalitarian state, oversees a regime of tyranny and repression that has seen more than 300 people executed since 2011.
Tensions with Donald Trump’s US have continued to simmer after Jong-un supervised tests aimed at developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching America.
However, as these stark images show, for most North Koreans, life is pretty ordinary.
Stunning shots taken in the past month show happy people going about their daily business in town squares and railway stations, while children are also seen listening to an accordion player.
Other photographs reveal the nation’s spectacular beauty, with the capital Pyongyang illuminated at night and skyscrapers pictured stretching across the city.
Temples and countryside are also showcased.
The rare snaps, which offer a unique glimpse behind the veil, were taken on a trip to the country by web designer Reuben Teo, 31, from Sarawak, Malaysia.
“Due to the cliches in my mind about the country, like military, war and propaganda, I was initially excited but terrified at the same time when I first arrived in North Korea,” he said.
“As time passes and through more observations during the trip, I began to see that North Korea actually does have real life within their society.
“I also discovered that North Korea has been stuck in time, most notably in the 1980s. It was like a living time capsule. Despite all these, there were still a lot of beauty within the closed doors of North Korea.
“They may not have the same standards of aesthetics as we have but their interpretation of beauty was unique and utterly amazing. I saw beauty in their cities, their natural landscapes and in the people.”
Reuben, who used a Nikon D800 to take the photos, was only told not to snap three things while he was there, and believes his pictures show a different side to North Korea.
“During my trip, we were told not to shoot three things,” he explained.
“It was the military, checkpoints and construction sites. As long as I followed these rules, no one stopped me from taking any photographs.
“I was free to take photos from my car, while walking on the streets and so on. Of course, it would be great to ask if you have doubts about whether you could shoot.
“I was stopped once while taking photos at the flower exhibition because there seemed to be a portrait of Kim Jong-un which I did not notice. I was told that I couldn’t shoot in that direction but no reason was given.
“I went as a traveller and wanted to experience it myself. However, after seeing it personally and looking back at the pictures I brought back, I thought that it was important for us to take a little step back and enjoy the beauty that has been hidden away from view by the mainstream media.
“I also thought that by sharing my stories and experiences with everyone would open a door for them to see North Korea in a different perspective.”
Reuben is even recommending North Korea as a top destination to visit.
“The photographs open our eyes to a region that has limited information and brings the world closer by allowing us to appreciate the country from a different perspective,” he added.
“North Korea is a self-reliant country in which they believe that education is the way to make a better living.
“North Korea may not be your ‘modern’ or ‘wealthy’ country by western standards, but it is in fact unique in its own way and the people are one of the friendliest I’ve ever met throughout my travels to many places.
“The country is also extremely clean and I can honestly tell you that it sits next just to Japan in terms of cleanliness. Put North Korea in your list of exotic destinations to visit.”– Mirror Online –