Tokyo-based photographer Ari Hatsuzawa gives the world a glimpse inside North Korea in a photo book collection, set to hit the stores on December 21st. Unlike the usual mundane and stolen images most people see of the so-called Hermit Kingdom, Katsuzawa’s photos are vibrant and openly taken. He explicitly asked permission to walk around the country with his camera and take photos of random people and things as they are in any regular day.
Children walking hand-in-hand strolling through a village street, off-duty military men hanging out at an amusement park, people wading in a public swimming pool—these are but some of the colorful and ‘normal’ scenes of North Korea. Hatsuzawa said that getting those snapshots had not been easy. He was assigned watchers to walk with him everywhere he went and many local Koreans in the rural areas heckled and called him out as they recognized him to be Japanese. But he made it clear that he never felt like he was in any danger at all. He believes that is a necessary consequence of a tightly controlled society—“the streets are safe.”
As to suggestions that the country’s propaganda machine could have planted those scenes in his path to ensure good outcome of his photos, he simply laughed it off and said, “People overestimate the resources that North Korea can afford to bring to bear on impressing just one guy with a camera.”
All photos by Ari Hatsuzawa
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