Enter North Korea – through an iPhone app

Photographer Eric Lafforgue has visited the DPRK four times since 2008 and now holds a collection of some 1 000 amazing photographs.  These photos ranging from culture to scenes and beyond are now available in his free Fotopedia iPhone app. You can also share the photos on Facebook or set them as background right from the app.

More about the app at Fotopedia.com


North Korea recruits hackers

North Korea is continuing to build up its army of cyberwarriors. The military is now recruiting new talent from schools and looking for prodigies that could be further trained to wage an electronic war against enemy states. In recent years North Korea has boosted its cyberwarrior army from some 500 soldiers to 3000, some of them deployed overseas.

North Korean defector Kim Heung-kwang who used to be a professor of computer science in the north reveals to Al Jazeera how the plan for a cyberarmy is coming along. “There is a pyramid-like prodigy recruiting system, where smart kids from all over the country – students who are good at math, coding and possess top analytical skills – are picked up” Kim said.

What seems surprising is that North Korea has hackers deployed all over the world, even Europe. According to Jang Se-yul who served as a hacker there are 600 hackers in two teams of 300 working abroad.

“They rotate once every year or two and those who return to North Korea continue on as researchers. It’s difficult to know the exact level of their technological skills, but according to a source, Kim Jong-il is investing hefty sums of money to prepare for cyberwarfare at any cost. He is investing nationally to nurture the best of the best. Whenever a new programme is released, he makes sure to buy it for the hackers to be able to study it.” Jang told.

North Korea is looking into modern ways of warfare because keeping up with western countries in an old-fashioned arms race is just too expensive. With the hundreds of millions they would have to spend on fighter jets or guns they can do much more damage online by training hackers. By giving them and their families a nice place to live in the capital and a change to work abroad while being part of the elite keeps most of them from defecting. To them there are no guarantees that the grass would be greener on the other side.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera

Smuggled footage from North Korea reveals the extent of food shortages

This video shot in North Korea over several months by an undercover reporter gives a glimpse into the real state of this malnourished country. The video shows homeless kids covered in filth begging for food and soldiers going around demanding bribes. Even the military that was long untouched by the shortages seems to be going hungry.

The state has been for long unable to provide food through the official distribution system and black markets are booming, not so secretly anymore either. The military has always been the cornerstone of Kim Jong-Il’s power and if the military starts to grow unhappy, hard times are in store for the Kim family. Especially for the new young 27 or 28 year-old dictator to be Kim Jong-Un.

See the video at abc.net.au

The Elders in North Korea

President Carter of The Elders visiting a group of students at Pyongyang’s Foreign Language University

An independent group of former heads of states known as the Elders visited North and South Korea in April on a mission to ease tension between the two nations. The Elders have now released photos and videos from their trip.

Let’s hope the efforts of The Elders will help all parties to find a diplomatic resolution to ease the tension.

See the rest of the pictures and read the blogs at TheElders.org

Recommended reading – Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick is an excellent book that covers the lives of six ordinary North Korean citizens and their families. From lovers in a forbidden relationship to a factory worker who worships Kim Il Sung.

Demick follows their lives in a world that gets worse every day after the club of communist countries came crashing down following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The author Barbara Demick is an American journalist who interviewed defected North Koreans while stationed in Seoul. She has done an amazing job gathering these stories into one wonderful book. The kind of overview she is able to create of everyday life in a country where radios are prefixed to one channel is one of a kind.

The book is nicely divided into different sections telling the story of the country and giving the reader an insight into its history while telling the stories of the six main characters at the same time.

Her style of writing combined with touching stories of everyday North Koreans trying to survive inside a system where the big brother watches you everywhere results into an excellent read.

I love the kinds of books that you can’t put down and that make you feel like you’re actually there. This achieved both.

Get your copy from e.g. Play.com 

North Korean posters for the spring farming season

Let's have a bumper crop this spring!

Lifeline of the people
































May marks the start of spring farming season in North Korea. Chosun Central News Agency released these posters to help motivate people sent out to the fields to help farmers with their work.

Video from Pyongyang

Steve Gong is a photojournalist who got a chance to see the true Pyongyang. He made this cool video of his trip behind the scenes.

Check out Gong’s website for pictures from the mass games and more at stevegongphoto.com