The Pyongyang Metro

Ride it here. Although in North Korea, the metro rides you.

Some good photos there. Been running for 37 years now.

I imagine the Soviet Union took a hand in designing and building this. I rode on the Moscow metro before the collapse of the USSR, and it was quite impressive (and simliar to many of the pictures on that site).

The inside of the stations, down on the platforms, reminds me of Beijing’s setup too.

I’ve had that site bookmarked for some time now. The Art of Propaganda is another good one. Check out the picture gallery.

I have ridden the Pyongyang metro… definitely one of the highlights of my visit to the DPRK. I even have a metro ticket, though our minder was a bit reluctant to give me one… maybe she thought I’d try to escape on the metro. :slight_smile:

I guess they used to use tokens but at least last year they were using paper tickets.

With the murals and lighting etc, some of those shots look quite like the Tashkent metro stations.

Some great shots there. I think the Vice Guide to North Korea that was linked to from a thread on here a while back may have had some footage in the metro at some point in it?

Maybe she was afraid the tickets contained secret North Korean metro technology and she’d be shot for handing it over to you.

You’ve been to NK? Did you do a thread about it? I’d love to read it.

I didn’t do a thread here but I’d be happy to answer any questions. I was there for 5 days in summer 2009. As with everyone, I was on a tour and had 3 government minders who were more like tour guides rather than “government suits”.

It is definitely the weirdest place I have ever been.

I have 2 of these type of things hanging in my living room… fantastic and wonky art from the DPRK.

I’ve never seen or read anything about North Korea that wasn’t creepy as shit. I’m a pretty adventurous guy, but I don’t think I’d ever have the guts to go there.

It wasn’t scary… more just completely bizarre… like an alternate universe where the real world simply does not exist. It was interesting to see their take on the Korean War (the War of Imperialist American Aggression). All the big empty highways and main roads nearly devoid of traffic, political slogans everywhere, and everything clean, orderly and regimented. Very weird. Landing back in Beijing was like entering the Land of Freedom.

I’d actually like to go back next year for the 100 year anniversary of Kim il Sung’s birth. It’ll be the biggest celebration in the country’s history.

They really do worship the guy.

Yeah. However, even though you’re not allowed to see it, you know very well what’s on the other side of the fence. And your “minders” know that you know. And you know they know you know. And everybody has to put on a big smile and pretend they believe North Korea is better than Disneyland, or else they get shot or thrown in jail or something. That’s the creepy part.

It was actually hard to determine what the minders really believed… I think in many cases they are being sincere. Most have never left North Korea and the only contact they have with foreign things is the few western visitors. It’s not like they can read the NYT or watch BBC. The crying and emotion at the tomb of Kim il Sung is certainly real though. He is very God-like in their eyes.

I don’t know if I was clear, what I meant was that they know about all the stuff that you, as a tourist, are not allowed to see - the starvation, forced labor, and general shittiness of living in North Korea if you’re not one of the elite or part of the show they put on for foreigners. The minders may or may not realize that you’ve heard all about this stuff from your own country’s media, I guess there’s no way to be sure.

It strikes me as a crazy cult in the form of a (sort of) modern nation-state. It’s like if al Qaeda had borders, the largest army in the world, and coming soon nuclear weapons.

It is not all hidden. We saw women making gravel to build roads by banging rocks together… about 30 of them sitting in a circle in the middle of a road under construction. No tools at all.

We saw them plowing fields with manual wooden plows pulled by animals.

We saw 50-60 guys riding in the back of a dump truck on their way to some work project, saw obviously malnourished guys working manual labour to build roads.

We were not allowed to take pictures of any of this, but it was not hidden from us.

My dad took photos of the Moscow subway right after the fall of the Soviets when I was a little kid…there were chandeliers, marble floors, wood paneling, etc.

Desert Nomad, can you tell us a little more about your trip? Do you have pictures? What made you want to go? How did you get permission to go? What was the process, cost, etc? Did you see the Arirang stadium thing? Would you recommend the trip to others?

Everyone has to go on a tour, but it can be a tour for just two people if that is what you want. My wife and I opted for a regular tour (all Americans because at the time Americans were more restricted and there was no reason for a non-American to join this more restricted tour… basically we were only allowed 5 days instead of the normal 8).

I took about 1000 pictures. I enjoy weird places (shortly after the DPRK trip, I spent 2 weeks in Sudan with a friend and we hired a 4x4), so the DPRK seemed like a great place to go on holiday. I have also been to Turkmenistan, Yemen, Iran, DR Congo, Laos and other odd places and love being far off the tourist trail. My next major trips are hopefully going to be Libya, Algeria and Burma.

We combined it as part of a 5 week trip to China, Korea (both of them) and Japan.

Getting permission was easy - just pay the 1500 EUR or so and apply 4 weeks in advance and assuming there are no problems (eg you are not a journalist), you’ll get a visa. The visa is not stamped in your passport, but I don’t think it would matter if it were.

We did see the Arirang Mass Games and it was easily, without question, the most amazing and spectacular performance I have ever seen.

I’d recommend it if you are willing to go with an open mind and not disrupt things… eg you WILL have to bow to the statue of the Great Leader and will be told that their plight is largely due to American Imperialists. You will see trashed US military stuff and torn US flags at the war museum. You will also be shown the USS Pueblo (captured spy ship). If you are willing to view things from their perspective, you’ll have a great time.

Our tour was 20 people who had been around a LOT. Other people on the tour had been to D.R. Congo, Yemen and one had just been on holiday in Afghanistan and Pakistan (he flew to Beijing from Islamabad to join the tour). It is not the sort of place one goes having only ever been to Germany and the US.

I also wanted to go before the country changed. I don’t know how long the DPRK will last in its current situation, but I wanted to see it before Coca Cola got there.

I’ve heard people say that the DPRK is the closest model to George Orwell’s 1984 that actually exists today.

Pity we can’t use that nation as a testing site for nuclear missiles. That entire location needs a cleansing like my termite-infested attic.