Meet the Singaporean Man Who’s Allowed to Break Strict Rules in North Korea
North Korea may still be in the process of opening its borders to the outside world — to the U.S., at least — but it already has something other than McDonald’s it welcomes without fuss: a social media star.
Meet Aram Pan, a Singaporean photographer with a flair for all things North Korean.
His project, titled DPRK360, aims to show a “different perspective” on the hermit state.
“Ever since I started this project, I’ve encountered two extreme types of people. Those who oppose my project because they deemed it to glorify socialism (or communism); and those who approve of my project because they deemed it to be anti-capitalist. The last thing I want is for this project to become a tool for either side to use as ammunition against each other.
“All I can say is that the DPRK 360 project is nothing more than my own journey of discovery. I publish whatever I see and experience. What you see is what I saw in North Korea.”
Last year, Pan captured a 360-degree view of Pyongyang aboard a microlight aircraft. For the record, tourists are usually prohibited from taking cameras or mobile phones during such flights, but he somehow managed to receive permission from state officials.
“Long story short, they got me approval. I could bring any camera that was strapped or tethered to me, so they wouldn’t come falling from the sky,” he told CityLab.
Pan concedes that his work warrants some form of self-censorship so that it continues without issue.
But while his content show “what the government wants people to see,” he argued that they also “show stuff that generally people don’t get to see, scenes of everyday life.”
“This gives me opportunity to open the window into the private lives of the North Koreans – to see at the side alleys old men playing chess, a cobbler, people just going about everyday life; stuff like that.”