Surprisingly Normal Scenes From Pyongyang, North Korea

Published July 18, 2016
Updated November 19, 2019

Although the country has long been isolated from the rest of the world, these fascinating photos provide a rare glimpse of daily life in North Korea.

Isolated from much of the world for decades, North Korea has offered itself to the world as an object of intense criticism and ceaseless fascination. But for Jaka Parker, the alienated and practically impenetrable nation was simply home.

Life In North Korea

Jaka Parker/InstagramJaka Parker

From November 2012 to March 2016, Jaka Parker lived with his wife and children in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. For nearly as long, he documented his days in photos. And those days look fascinatingly average.

Of course, Parker’s “average” likely differs from others’ experiences in the country — first and foremost in that he could even move to North Korea in the first place.

While migration into the country is notoriously difficult, Parker hails from Indonesia, one of the few countries that has maintained diplomatic relations with North Korea. Such a status has likely influenced the neighborhood in which he lived, the schools his children attended, and the kind of “normal” North Korea afforded him.

It remains unclear in what capacity Parker, who according to his Instagram has returned to Indonesia, worked in North Korea — or why he ventured there to begin with.

Equally uncertain is what Parker chose not to document in his years-long photo essay. In fact, in providing glimpses into life in North Korea, Parker leaves us with more questions than he does answers:

Surprisingly Normal Scenes From Pyongyang, North Korea
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Enjoy these photos of life in North Korea? Next, learn about North Korea’s mass games and the nation’s history according to one of its despots.

Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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.