A Look Within
By Alison Gammon Posted Dec 20 2011
Earlier this year, the Associated Press gave the world a rare look inside North Korea, a nation deemed mysterious by many because of strict government policy and strained relationships with Western nations, particularly the United States. The government’s foreign media restrictions have made it difficult for journalists to report inside the country. Those limits were tested in June when the AP negotiated with the North Korean state news agency.
After a series of agreements, the AP was able to establish a news bureau in Pyongyang. The AP was the first and only Western news agency allowed in North Korea. Although the AP already had a video bureau in North Korea since 2006, the agreement allowed writers and photojournalists to work in the country as well.
After the decision was made, AP Seoul Bureau Chief Jean H. Lee and Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder published a photo essay that generated a buzz among news outlets that centered around the rare “unprecedented coverage,” as cited in an AP news release.
However, questions surfaced about how unprecedented this coverage actually was. According to the Atlantic), Lee and Guttenfelder were guided by government assistants and North Korean photojournalists. On the New York Times Lens blog, Lee said they were guided by “North Korean photojournalists, not government (aides).”
The photo essay focuses on people rather than the general problems in North Korea. According to Guttenfelder, it is a photographer’s mission to “say something meaningful about regular people's lives.” In a country as isolated from the international spotlight as North Korea, this focus on humanity is especially valuable.
The photo essay offered a rare glimpse of a country that probably isn’t well-known by Westerners because of the North Korean government’s tendencies toward isolation that led to a lack of coverage.
International Media applauded the photo essay. The United Kingdom’s The Independent called the piece, “the most candid ever published in Western newspapers.”
A collection of Tweets illustrated that viewers were moved as well.
But this collection of photos from North Korea is not the first. Time, Life and other news outlets have produced photos from within the country.
Global Journalist has compiled a collection of some of the most powerful North Korean photo essays.
Exposing North Korea