North Korea

Photograph by David Guttenfelder

When they opened up the 3G network for foreigners, everything changed.

David Guttenfelder

North Korea

  • David Guttenfelder
  • 2013

David Guttenfelder was chief photographer in Asia for the Associated Press when it became the first international news organization to open a bureau in North Korea. He started making frequent trips to the country, which had been largely off-limits to foreign journalists and virtually hidden from public view for nearly 60 years. Guttenfelder dutifully chronicled the official events and stage-managed pageants in Pyongyang, but his eye kept wandering to the scenes of daily life just beyond the guided tours. In early 2013, North Korea made a 3G connection available to foreigners, and suddenly Guttenfelder had the ability to share those glimpses with the world in real time. On January 18, 2013, he used his iPhone to post one of the first images to Instagram from inside the notoriously secretive country. “The window [into] North Korea has opened another crack,” he wrote on his widely followed account. “Meanwhile, for Koreans here who will not have access to the same service, the window remains shut.” By using the emerging technology of the sharing age, Guttenfelder opened one of the world’s most closed societies. He also inspired other visiting foreigners to do the same, creating a portrait of the monotony of everyday life not visible in mainstream coverage of the totalitarian state and bringing the outside world its clearest picture yet of North Korea.

See more of David Guttenfelder's Instagram images of life in North Korea

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