a place for sharing all things photographic and some things not

North Korea – 2 worlds.

I know I usually reserve weekends for some long post on one topic or another, but this week I don’t really have very much to say. So I’ll just stick to one of the things that I do best – talking about stuff that other people do.

Sometimes we assume that everything that we see or that we are presented with are true and represent both sides of the coin. Maybe … or maybe not. I’ll elaborate. Take a look through this series – just a brief glimpse through the collection of photos and the general impression that you get from them. A Glimpse of North Korea, from The Big Picture

Image by Carlos Barria, Reuters.

Now perhaps I might redirect your attention to another article that has recently surfaced.

It appeared on in The Guardian as is titled “How one man escaped from a North Korean prison camp“. Admittedly it is a very lengthy article as it’s also an excerpt from a book but it could just as fittingly be titled “A Glimpse of North Korea.” I suggest you read through it in it’s entirety and perhaps draw your own inferences and comparisons to the collection above.

On what seemed to be the morning of the third day, guards wordlessly entered Shin’s cell, shackled his ankles, tied a rope to a hook in the ceiling and hung him upside down. They did not return until evening. On the fourth day, the interrogators wore civilian clothes. Marched from his cell, Shin met them in a dimly lit room. A chain dangled from a winch on the ceiling. Hooks on the walls held a hammer, axe, pliers and clubs. On a table, Shin saw the kind of pincers used for carrying hot metal.

“If you tell the truth right now, I’ll save you,” the chief interrogator said. “If not, I’ll kill you. Understand?”

The chief’s lieutenants pulled off Shin’s clothes and trussed him up. When they were finished, his body formed a U, his face and feet toward the ceiling, his bare back toward the floor. The chief interrogator shouted more questions. A tub of burning charcoal was dragged beneath Shin, then the winch lowered towards the flames. Crazed with pain and smelling his burning flesh, Shin twisted away. One of the guards grabbed a hook and pierced the boy in the abdomen, holding him over the fire until he lost consciousness.

Shin looked at his father. He was weeping silently. When guards dragged her to the gallows, Shin saw that his mother looked bloated. They forced her to stand on a wooden box, gagged her, tied her arms behind her back and a noose around her neck. She scanned the crowd and found Shin. He refused to hold her gaze. When guards pulled away the box, she jerked about desperately. As he watched his mother struggle, Shin thought she deserved to die.

Shin’s brother looked gaunt as guards tied him to the wooden post. Three guards fired their rifles three times. He thought his brother, too, deserved it.

– Excerpts from the article.

There is a stark difference between the two and suddenly the prose becomes more visceral than the images.

There is probably a chance that both sets of documents are skewed in some way and not completely objective reports, but as objective as they might be, their viewpoints and content are completely different.

We forget that journalists are sometimes limited to what they can see and what they are allowed to say. Not that we shouldn’t take things at face value but it would be worthwhile to do some evaluation of what we have been told and what else there might be that was left unsaid.

It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if the North Koreans weren’t the only ones trapped in a box of dictated thoughts and viewpoints.


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