From August 01, 2020 to September 30, 2020
Pyongyang, North Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains one of the most isolated and secretive nations in the world.
Since its creation in 1948, the country has been ruled by three generations of the Kim dynasty descending from the country's founder Kim Il-sung, followed by his son, Kim Jong-il, and currently under the control of his grandson, Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un. It is a self-reliant socialist society based on an extreme interpretation of the cult of personality and devotion to the current and former leaders, fueled by a large dose of propaganda.
The festivities honoring the 70th anniversary of the creation of North Korea on September 9, 1948, include the opening ceremony of the Mass Games at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. Supreme Leader, Kim Jung-un is in attendance. While the country is generally off-limits to foreign media, this event is accessible to the press and tourists alike.
Virtually the entire society has been called to service and is focused on the sole objective of showing the world the caliber, merit, and talent of North Korea on display in both cultural and military domains. It is in this favorable, yet highly controlled, context that this story takes place.
Visitors are shown only a confined area of Pyongyang; one of modern high-rises in recently constructed districts of the city. Visits to the city’s national monuments are a required portion of the pre-determined, inflexible itinerary. Chaperoned and surveilled by two official government guides at all times is standard practice for foreign visitors. You are told what to do, what to look at or not, and what to photograph. Shots of people working, carrying goods, or not well-dressed are forbidden pushing one to show only an idealized vision of the city. The environment is totally controlled and there is no choice but to follow the rules.
So, when you look at the images, to paraphrase the Belgian surrealist painter Magritte:
This is not North Korea.
Alain Schroeder is a Belgian photojournalist born in 1955. In 1989 he founded Reporters, a well-known photo agency in Belgium. He has illustrated over thirty books dedicated to China, Iran, the Renaissance, Ancient Rome, the Gardens of Europe, Thailand, Tuscany, Crete, Vietnam, Budapest, Venice, the Abbeys of Europe, Natural Sites of Europe, etc. Belgian book titles include, "Le Carnaval de Binche vu par 30 Photographes", and "Processions de Foi, Les Marches de l'Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse". Publications include National Geographic, Geo, Paris Match,... He has won many international awards including a Nikon Japan award for the Who Will Save the Rohingya series, the TPOTY (Travel Photographer of the Year) award with two series - Living for Death and Kushti, a World Press Photo 1st Prize Sport Stories for the series Kid Jockeys, 2 first prize World Press Photo in 2020 for the series Saving Orangutans, and participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide. He is represented in France by REA.