Gallery: The unseen face of Pyongyang
What could be more fascinating and ironic than a detailed tourist guide you’ll never use -- a guide to the world’s most secretive and neurotic state?
Drawing from his multiple trips to North Korea and his perspective in his field of expertise, German architect Philip Meuser has put together a two-volume “guide” to Pyongyang titled “Architectural and Cultural Guide Pyongyang" (Dom Publishers).
The guide was published in English and German in March and will be published in Korean in June by Damdi Publishers.
Showing it like it is
“I didn’t want to criticize politics or society by publishing this book, but rather show the city as it is,” said Meuser in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar Korea. “But that led naturally to exposing the city’s dictatorial rule, intellectual poverty and loss of creativity.”
The first volume is abundant with images of various venues and vistas in Pyongyang, including those of the subway, the city square, monuments, residential areas, stadiums and hotels.
The second is composed of Meuser’s first-person critical account of traveling throughout the city and essays by various contributors.
Differing from other books on North Korea, the images in the book are not propaganda photographs, but were taken from Russian and U.S. archives. Meuser also collected travel photographs from others who had visited the country.
“The most important fact about this book is that all the images and content have not been censored in any way, and are completely independent,” said Meuser.
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But why publish a guidebook to a place that most people will never visit?
“I wanted it to be an awakening for people in the outside world, and also wanted to provide strange material for the travel news articles on North Korea.” (He was quite astute about that point, judging from the fact that this article is going up at all).
The allure for every type of traveler
For the most part, as USA TODAY Travel pointed out in their review, the guide is primarily geared toward "armchair travelers" who will love the fascinating look at "this very strange and isolated capital city."
But for an increasing number of travelers, North Korea holds an appeal unmatched by other destinations.
"One of the main reasons I travel is to see lifestyles that are different from my own, and North Korea is about as different as it gets, despite the fact they're also Korean," said Soon Ho Lee, 31, a partner at a hedge fund in Hong Kong who plans to travel to North Korea in the near future.
"I want to visit soon mainly because there's a limited window of how long the North Korean regime in its current format will last. Within 20 years or less we will see dramatic changes to, if not the complete extinction of, North Korea as we know it today. I'd like to see it -- or at least a sterilized version of it -- before everything changes," said Lee.
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