Inside North Korea: The pictures Kim Jong-un doesn’t want you to see


These are rare pictures of the North Korea Kim Jong-un doesn’t want you to see – smuggled out of the communist state by a brave traveller.

Michal Huniewicz travelled to the country as part of a tour accompanied by state-sponsored tour guides virtually watching his every move.

Michal, 31, managed to sneak forbidden shots which show poverty-ridden slums and repressed citizens performing a charade of prosperity and joy for foreign visitors.

Such pictures are strictly prohibited – a fact Michal was reminded of at every turn – but the amateur photographer managed to smuggle them out of the communist state via a hidden memory card.

Michal, from London, crossed the border via train from Dandong, China, which took the group to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

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Eerie: Michal said the country reminded him of 1980s communist states in Europe
@m_huniewicz/twitternorth-korea road to inside north korea inside
Candid: The shots were prohibited by guards

He told “We were taken to nice places where everything was very stage-managed but I was able to take pictures from the window.

“There were uniformed guards on the train, so I had to use stealth to get the pictures while they weren’t around.

“One of the first things we saw was a weird-looking slum which looked like an Oriental version of communist-era Eastern Europe and there was lots of socialist architecture of North Korea’s leaders.

Upon reaching Pyongyang, the group were taken to see thriving-looking shops, a stamp museum, monuments and Pyongyang’s underground system.

@m_huniewicz/twitternorth-korea road to inside north korea inside
Workers: Shots of rice fields in North Korea
@m_huniewicz/twitternorth-korea road to inside north korea inside
Poverty: Michal grabbed pictures of slum areas en route to Pyongyang

They were also not allowed to leave their hotel rooms at night and were closely monitored by state-sponsored guides at all times.

Michal, originally from Poland, travelled to the communist country because of his interest in socialist states sparked by his own country’s history.

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But he found even within the period of his four-day visit the experience became mentally draining.

He said: “You can see how people become brainwashed as even within four days the mental pressure became quite intense.

“I was prepared to see poverty but what I hadn’t expected was the mental strain people must be under.

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Propaganda: Slogans are branded across state buildings such as this factory
@m_huniewicz/twitternorth-korea road to inside north korea inside
Images: Pictures of Korean leaders past and present are displayed across the country

“Even in the space of four days I found myself just wanting to please the guides at all times because I did not want them to get angry with me or be placed under more scrutiny.

“When we arrived in Pyongyang Station there were all these immaculately dressed men and women hurrying about the platform with nowhere to go – ours was the only train in the station that day.Road to North Korea by Michal Huniewicz

“We were also invited to a celebration dance to mark North Korea’s supposed victory over Japan in World War Two.

“Everyone dancing and celebrating looked absolutely stressed and were dripping in sweat as they tried not to make a mistake in this synchronised event. There was no sense of joy.”

MIchal’s endured a nervous exit from the country as he went through three hours of security checks with the prohibited pictures stored on a memory card.

He said: “Towards the end one of the guards came up to me and said ‘you’ve been taking too many photographs’ and just walked away.

@m_huniewicz/twitter"When we finally arrived in Pyongyang. Through the curtains of the compartment window, we looked at a surreal scene that appeared like something out of a theatre in its perfection and artifice. Elegant men, beautiful women, walking in a simulated hurry, travellers without a reason (ours was the only train that day), all to impress us and so that the station didn't look empty"
Staged: Michal believed citizens were drafted in to walk through Pyongyang Station
Guided: A supermarket the group visited during their tour

“I think they wanted to intimidate me into self-censoring and deleting my pictures.

“They were checking everyone’s devices, smartphones, laptops but I didn’t have a phone with me so I think I didn’t get quite as thorough a search as some of the others.

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“It was a truly extraordinary experience and I’m glad I was able to bring these pictures back with me.”

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