Staying Fit: Smiles and Marches in North Korea
North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, and often we can only guess what is going on there. Today, the international community wonders, if North Korea’s abandonment of nuclear tests will be the beginning of a new era. Photographer Karim Sahai went behind the Korean curtain to capture everyday moments from the lives of locals.
On April 21, North Korea announced it was freezing its nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile program, and also stopped the operation of the nuclear test site in the north of the country (likely, Punggye-ri). Two days later, Kim Jong-un agreed to American inspectors performing a check of the nuclear test site.
According to Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang needs tests no more, because the country has completed the creation of nuclear weapons. The DPRK decided to keep it, but promised not to use it unless there is a threat to its security.
North Korea resorted to freezing its nuclear program to restore dialogue with neighboring countries and the international community. At the same time, the ruling party announced the new strategic direction to be economic development and ‘radical improvement of the standards of living of people.’
Nature photographer and movie special effects professional. Worked on The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The Hobbit. Together with his wife Maria Sahai, organizes photo tours to Greenland, Norway, Iceland, and the Svalbard archipelago.
— It might be difficult to take photographs in the DPRK: professional cameras, lenses, video cameras, and computers may be suspicious. During my last visit to North Korea, even mobile phones were prohibited.
One time, while I was waiting for the military parade to begin, a pioneer squad caught my eye. One of the pioneers got very interested in my camera. I handed it to him without a second thought — and for a moment, it erased the cultural and language barriers between us.
I knew beforehand that I would not be able to enjoy full freedom of movement and that the guides would always keep me company — but I thought about it as an additional challenge to my creativity.
On one of the evenings, I was lucky to be unsupervised and get a chance to observe the locals — cooking dinner, watching TV, sewing clothes, hanging laundry, and styling their hair. In other words, seeing those everyday moments was the goal of my trip.