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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
Visitors have been banned from taking photographs at the top of the Juche Tower in Pyongyang, a recently returning tourist told NK News on Thursday, while windows at the iconic Koryo Hotel are being obscured in some parts of the building.
The new Juche Tower rule, which was reportedly introduced last week, was imposed without explanation by authorities on local tour groups, the visitor said.
The obstructions to window views from the Koryo Hotel appears to have begun sometime during or before August.
NK News understands there is significant construction taking place in the vicinity of the Juche Tower, a possible explanation for why photos may be prohibited from the location at this time.
A rulebook provided in Korean to local diplomats stationed in the DPRK, seen by NK News in 2017, said that they should not take photos of construction sites.
“It is a principle that [diplomats] should take a commemorative photograph of all the visiting places, including revolutionary battle sites, revolutionary sites, scenic spots and amusement parks where photography is allowed,” the guidebook reads.
But a “construction site which hasn’t yet cleaned up and the scene of an accident”, as well as “unpublished publications” and “creative devices” were also placed on the prohibited list.
As a result, it’s possible that the nearby construction is so significant that authorities have decided to impose a total ban on photos from the top.
Meanwhile, other visitors said that the city’s iconic Koryo Hotel had taken steps to obscure various windows on higher floors.
The revolving restaurant at the top of the Koryo Hotel has been changed to stop people from being able to see out of many of the windows, one visitor said on condition of anonymity.
Tinted glass has been fitted to at the outside of at least half the panorama view of the revolving restaurant, seemingly designed to stop visitors snapping shots of the nearby ‘Forbidden City’ – which includes the headquarters of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
Though the restaurant still rotates, the windows outside block the view for at least 50% of the rotation.
In addition, windows facing towards the front of the hotel in upper floors have been obscured, NK News understands from another visitor.
A plastic translucent grill affixed to the window makes it difficult to clearly see outside in the pictures shared with NK News.
“You can’t open windows, the handle is gone,” the visitor said.”Why did they cover it up? Seriously. What could you see?”
One possibility is major works that are ongoing at the nearby central government complex, which NK Pro reported on in May 2019.
Prior to the adjustment, the hotel’s revolving restaurant offered an uninterrupted view of the area for over 30 years, making the timing difficult even for hosts in the country to understand, NK News learned.
For its part, the Juche Tower normally affords excellent 360 degree views in central Pyongyang and those with high-quality cameras have in the past been able to capture key developments in the city, such as the Pyongyang building collapse in 2014.
Using photos taken from atop the Juche Tower, NK News in September revealed that city-planners in Pyongyang had ordered a mass repainting of buildings in its vicinity.
Office buildings and residences had been recolored en masse into white and light pastel shades, apparently as part of an effort to make the city look more sophisticated, an informed source told NK News.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News