55 Rare Photographs Of Life In North Korea

Published May 23, 2014
Updated August 20, 2021

Take a haunting look inside one of the world's last closed societies, the Hermit Kingdom.

As one of the world’s last closed societies, North Korea has attracted global curiosity to what it seals off. Despite an ongoing food crisis that has spanned two decades and the cascading paranoia of its political leadership, life manages to go on in the Hermit Kingdom.

Compiled from a handful of sources, we take a look at everyday life in North Korea:

North Korea Photographs Isolation Of North Korea
Since the fall of the USSR, North Korea has existed in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world.

Pyongyang At Night
Electricity is still a rare commodity across North Korea, even in the capital of Pyongyang, where the city is shrouded in darkness at night.

North Korea Photographs Malnutrition
North Korea has faced a dire food crisis over the past two decades, the ongoing impact of which is still visible on North Korean citizens.

North Korea Photographs Electric Fence
Over 1,500 miles of North Korean coastline are surrounded by electric fences to prevent people from trying to flee the country.

North Korea Photographs Line For Buses In North Korea
Lines for transportation and basic necessities can span for hours. Here, a long queue forms for a bus in Pyongyang.

North Korea Photographs Starvation
Chronic shortages of food has made the population look food any where they can find it, including by collecting grass from parks.

Candid Photographs Of North Korea
Two school girls hold hands in a subway station in Pyongyang.

Agriculture In North Korea
Most agricultural production in North Korea has not been mechanized, meaning farmers are highly reliant on animals for a majority of their activities.

North Korean People
Virtually sealed off from the outside world, North Koreans have few - if any - encounters with other nationalities and races. This photograph captures the reaction of a group of people to seeing a Westerner.

Ryugyong Hotel
Dubbed "The Worst Building in the History of Mankind" and the "Hotel Of Doom", the yet-to-be-completed Ryugyong Hotel dominates the Pyongyang skyline.

North Korean Home

Anti-Tank Defense
A defining attribute of North Korean roads are the frequent appearance of giant roadside blocks, which contain debris and shrapnel to inhibit the mobility of tanks in case of a land invasion.

Rollerblading In North Korea

North Korean Woman With Gun
On top of an active force of over one million, North Korea's military has a reserve force of over 8 million men and women.

Pyongyang Gallery Of Art
The Gallery of Art in Pyongyang deals with a mid-afternoon power outage.

Roadside Store In North Korea
Though operating businesses is technically illegal in North Korea, many rural families supplement their livelihood by opening small roadside stores.

Photographs Of North Korea
Pyongyang is home to the world's deepest subway system, which also doubles as a city-wide bomb shelter.

Farming In North Korea
While education is hypothetically universal and mandated in North Korea, most farms are dependent on child labor.

North Korean Subway Car

Great Leader

Holiday In North Korea
Holidays in North Korea are a little different than most, as citizens are 'asked' to pay homage to the great leader at various monuments. The resulting lines can last several miles.

North Korean Soldier
While North Korea nominally has one of the world's largest armies, the reality is the North Korean government cannot adequately provide for over 1 million active personnel. Meaning scenes like the above -- where soldiers trade labor for food or money -- are quite common.

North Korean Wedding

Bowling In North Korea

North Korea Photographs

Pyongyang From Above
Pyongyang from above.

North Korean Village

North Korean Soldiers Smoking

Upscale Shops In Pyongyang
Western brands and goods are available to the elite in Pyongyang, where higher end items can be purchased only in Euros and U.S. dollars.

Car Advertisement In North Korea


North Korean Traffic Guard

North Korean Village Store

North Korean Play

Captured American Spy Ship
In 1968, North Korea captured the USS Pueblo, an intelligence vessel that is now a museum in Pyongyang.

North Korean Streets

North Korean Statues


Child Labor

Street Store

North Korean Posters

North Korean Monuments

North Korean Soldiers

North Korean Border

Driving Signs
Driving is a relatively new activity for North Koreans; these signs instruct drivers to watch their speed and be careful of other motorists.

Rare Photographs Of Life In North Korea

North Korean Construction

Hair Salon

Pyongyang In The Snow

Day At The Park

Anti-Littering Signs

Taxi In Pyongyang

North Korean Stores

Transportation In North Korea

Sculptures Of The Kims

Life In North Korea

And if you enjoyed the gallery above of North Korea pictures, we highly recommend you watch this video series by Vice:

Thank you to Tema and News.com.au for some of the images in this gallery.

If you liked these photographs capturing life in North Korea, be sure to see All That's Interesting's galleries on North Korean propaganda and the unbelievable mass games of North Korea. And before you leave, be sure to like All That Is Interesting on Facebook.

Alexander is a cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Baldwin, Alexander. "55 Rare Photographs Of Life In North Korea." AllThatsInteresting.com, May 23, 2014, https://allthatsinteresting.com/life-in-north-korea-photographs. Accessed June 23, 2024.