First we had Kim Jong Il looking at things, then Kim Jong Un started looking at things too. Now a third individual inside North Korea has found themselves the star of another eye-opening blog. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Nina.
Nina is looking at things, but what she’s seeing is something altogether different.
On the same day that a US NGO claimed that North Korea is experiencing the worst famine in twenty years, a series of photos have been released via an anonymous wordpress blog showing the infant wandering around the capital Pyongyang. And although what they show is unrepresentative of the lives of average North Koreans, you can’t deny it’s looking rather nice.
Although no background or context is given for Nina’s appearance, and there’s no indication where exactly they came from, the photos offer a unique snapshot of daily life on the ground in North Korea in some of the city’s most modern, bustling and affluent new districts.
All credit to the usually bombast North Koreans if this turns out to be an unusually subtle piece of propaganda extolling the modern virtues of the socialist state, but intentionally or not, the photos and their captions seem to try and address and refute some of the longest held stereotypes about life inside the country.
We see Nina stuck in ‘Pyongyang’s traffic jam’ in a land long thought of as having no cars, looking at ‘imported sauce’ in the hermit state where cross-border trade was supposed to be illegal, and looking at abundantly stocked shops which ‘are still open at midnight’ in a country where most are assumed to be starving.
Nina dances in front of a TV screen showing images of Kim Jong Un and happily interacts with North Koreans who are not shy to appear on camera. NK News locates the photos as being taken in and around the newly developed Mansuadae area of the city– Kim Jong Un’s first propagated achievement as leader – and inside exclusive locations like the five star Koryo Hotel.
Not everything’s rosy for the young Nina however, as the caption for one photo reveals ‘Nina is shitting into her pants.’
Although we can’t say for sure, the evidence would suggest young Nina isn’t in fact Korean herself, perhaps the daughter of a foreign diplomatic worker. Certainly she is privy to the very best the North Korean capital has to offer.
One thing Nina’s visit does confirm as she jumps on chickens and gambols through the urban environment is the material, if not social, transformations taking place in some exclusive parts of the country’s showcase capital. Just a decade ago stocked shops could be counted on one hand, entire districts descended into pitch black as soon as the sun went down, and construction had halted nearly everywhere.
Just a few weeks after foreigners were invited back inside the monolithic Ryugyong Hotel, the showpiece skyscraper project stalled for a decade, Nina has appeared to try and show us that – for some at the very top of the pile at least – life in North Korea can be as brightly lit and forward facing as the rest of the world.
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