images of North Korea

Postcards from Pyongyang: Images of North Korea

by Michael on April 8, 2013

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We’d like to share some images of North Korea from postcards we picked up in Pyongyang. Some of them display the incessant propaganda while others are images of the modern city center.

Unless you’ve avoided all media, you’ve probably noticed that North Korea has been in the news quite a bit lately. When Kim Jong Un started his mysterious saber-rattling a few months ago, we found it hard to take him seriously. But when we visited North Korea we did notice something ominous, the people really believe the propaganda fed to them by the government that they won the Korean War (without any Chinese help by the way). If they believe they won the last war, perhaps they think they can win another.
post card from North Korea people holding torch

“Let us light the flames of war and pass on the flame of peace.”

Much of the iconography is similar to any Communist regime. People looking resolutely to the future while engaged in some uplifting task, here holding a torch.

It’s the stated goal of the DPRK government for the two Koreas to be one country again, with Pyongyang as the capital. The people in the background may be South Koreans. Whenever there is a protest in the South, it could just be students fighting tuition increases, in the North it is portrayed as an anti-government protest from people rallying for reunification.

North Korea postcard of soldier and missiles (575x383)

“Let us fully carry out the Songun (Military First) Policy.”

Postcards portraying North Korea’s military might are prevalent. The DPRK ranks 48th in population but its military is the 5th largest in the world.

North Korea postcard

“Protect the unity of our soldiers with an iron will.”

Interesting that the woman dancing with the soldier is not wearing the requisite Kim Il Sung pin. The figures on the bottom appear to show the military and civilians working together. Soldiers are used in the DPRK to harvest crops and one holds a basket full of bread.

North Korea soldier postcard (524x800)

“The People’s Army are the core of our national defense and the pillar of socialism.”

Lots of missiles in this one so they must really mean business.

Pyongyang NOrth Korea building

What funds the country doesn’t spend on the military are expended creating Pyongyang as a Potemkin Village type showpiece. This is the Mangyongdae School Children’s Palace, built in 1989, and dedicated to children’s afterschool activities such as sports, computers and foreign languages. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, funding for these types of projects dried up.

Peoples Palace of Culture Pyongyang

This postcard of the People’s Palace of Culture shows a rare sight in Pyongyang, an actual vehicle on the road.

Pyongyang ice rink

High priority is also placed on sports as shown in the design of this ice rink.

Images of North Korea currency: the won

While North Korea has its own currency, the won, visitors are required to spend British pounds, euros or U.S. dollars.

NOrth Korea arch of triumph currency

This 500-won note shows the Arch of Triumph, built to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s victory over the Japanese that ended World War II. At least that’s what they tell their people. The symbolism of why it’s six inches taller than the more famous Arch in Paris is apparently lost on me.

North Korea currency Party Foundation Momument

The Party Foundation Monument is different from similar Communist monuments. While the hammer-and-sickle of the USSR celebrates workers and farmers, North Korea adds a paintbrush to include artists in the mix. Of course that is artists who create artwork pre-approved by the totalitarian government.

Here’s the link to our rare photos from inside North Korea.

Follow the link for a picture-filled story in Flaunt magazine about the architecture of Pyongyang.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick April 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Those are some seriously crazy pics with the soldiers.

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Michael April 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

It’s probably the most militaristic country on Earth.

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wandering educators April 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm

why are there so few cars? that seems incredible to me. what an amazing experience!

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Michael April 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

The country is so poor that few people can afford a car. Ironically, the few cars we did see were usually black Mercedes for the upper echelons.

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Bethaney - Flashpacker Family April 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I was really hoping to get to visit North Korea but looks like it’s off the cards for the immediate future.

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Michael April 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Maybe there are deep discounts right now.

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas April 9, 2013 at 3:32 am

Living in Spain, I have students who are obsessed with American culture who often ask me about my thoughts on what goes on in my country. When words fail them in English, they simply make bombing noises. Yikes. I’ve got some stake, as my boyfriend works for NATO and my parents live only a few miles from Fermi Lab in the Chicago suburbs. Double Yikes.

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Michael April 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

That’s so sad about that reaction with the bombing noises. We run into that a bit when we travel too.

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Si @ Man vs World April 9, 2013 at 3:44 am

Amazing stuff! I find propaganda like some of this to be oddly frightening and yet crazy funny at the same time. I can’t believe they say they defeated the Japanese to end WWII!

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Michael April 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Not only that, but when the US sends food aid to North Korea the government tells their people it is war reparations from America for losing the Korean War.

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Terry at Overnight New York April 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Seems the only people are view are those in the posters straight out of Soviet Russia or China from the 1950s. Scary (and sad).

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Michael April 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Hi Terry,

Much of the iconography is right out of the Stalin/Mao playbook. And you should see the giant gold covered statues.

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Anthony Cole May 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm

I have to admit, it can be pretty amazing what North Korea can do if it has its mind and funds in the right place. Those few pieces of impressive infrastructure is proof enough of that. Now, why can’t they just focus on more peaceful ventures.

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Libby May 19, 2014 at 5:18 am

Larissa & Michael,

Greetings from Malaysia.

It is possible to request for a north Korea postcard from you?

Thanks and have a nice day.

Regards,
Libby

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Michael May 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Hi Libby,

I’m sorry but we are global nomads and don’t carry those items around with us to send you.

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Libby May 27, 2014 at 5:02 am

Larissa & Michael,

Thanks and appreciate for your reply.

Have a safe journey.

Greeting from Malaysia :-)

Regards,
Libby

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Libby May 27, 2014 at 5:05 am

Larissa & Michael,

Thanks and appreciate your reply.

I am two years in postcard collection, and currently looking for postcards from “race” country / country where their people hardly write postcards.

Hope you can help me in other time.

Thanks.

Regards,
Libby

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