[pictures from the hermit kingdom]

Topic: Korea

Daniel McKleinfeld has pointed me to a fascinating (and vast) collection of photos of North Korea, taken by one Artemii Lebedev, a web designer from Russia. (Note that at the bottom of the page, you can click through to subsequent pages of pictures.)

These images give a good overall sense of the bleakness of North Korea, which seems to alternate between gargantuan grandiosity and numbing shoddiness. The image above is a perfect example of the inhuman scale of North Korean monumentalism, which seems intended to make you feel very, very small and powerless.

Also startling is how bare everything looks without advertising. There is essentially no individual or non-state corporate expression on display anywhere in any form.

In the end, though, I think what the photos reveal most clearly is how well concealed North Korea really is. We see almost no one and get no feel for what North Korean life might actually be like. This is all that tourists are permitted to see and photograph, and though it’s possible to see the many cracks in the Potemkin nation, it’s still impossible to see behind the crumbling sets.