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In Photos: North Korea Through the Lens of David Guttenfelder

Photojournalist David Guttenfelder helped the Associated Press open a bureau in Pyongyang, and has made more than 40 trips to North Korea over the years.
Photo par David Guttenfelder/AP

Read and watch more about North Korea in "March Madness," a VICE News special section on the Hermit Kingdom.

Nobody aside from North Korea's own government photographers has had better access to the Hermit Kingdom than David Guttenfelder. In 2011, he helped the Associated Press open a bureau in Pyongyang, making it the first Western news agency to have an office in the isolated country.

Guttenfelder, who is now a National Geographic Photography Fellow, has made more than 40 trips to North Korea over the years. His photos often manage to capture candid moments that offer a stark contrast to the regime's carefully managed stagecraft.


He created the Instagram account EverydayDPRK — tagline: "Opening a window to North Korea" — which now boasts more than 91,000 followers. The images posted there depict the fascinating banalities of daily life in the country, from teachers and students in their classrooms, to farmers with livestock, to elites enjoying their lives of relative comfort in Pyongyang.

Here are some of our favorite images from Guttenfelder's visits to the Kim regime over the years.

Related: What Preparing for War Looks Like Inside North Korea

A North Korean choir sings during a concert in Pyongyang in April 2012 to commemorate the 100th birthday of the country's founding father, Kim Il-sung.

Schoolchildren help to fix potholes in a rural road in North Korea's North Hamgyong province in June 2014.

A Korean War veteran visits a military cemetery in July 2013 on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula.

A young North Korean woman reads under the bright lights of a newly constructed development project in the Mansu Hill area of Pyongyang in June 2012.

A riding instructor waits with his horse at the newly opened Mi Rim Riding Club near Pyongyang in December 2013.

A man clears snow from a path at the Samjiyon Grand Monument in April 2012. The monument depicts Kim Il-sung as a young general and commemorates a battle against Japanese forces in 1939.

Women perform in July 2013 at the Arirang Mass Games at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

A nurse comforts a baby at a nursery inside the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in February 2013.

A man takes a photograph while his friends rest on deck chairs at a water slide and swimming pool complex in Pyongyang in September 2012.

Kim Jong-un bows his head as he arrives at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to commemorate Kim Jong-il's 70th birthday in February 2012. The younger Kim took power two months earlier after his father's death.

A North Korean construction worker carries bricks at a building project to construct a ski resort at North Korea's Masik Pass in September 2013. North Korean authorities have been encouraging a broader interest in sports and recreation in the country, calling it "the hot wind of sports blowing through Korea."

In October 2000, during the last months of Bill Clinton's presidency, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright became the highest level US official to visit North Korea since 1950. As a gift to Kim Jong-il, she brought a basketball signed by Michael Jordan.

North Korean schoolchildren sweep snow from the steps of a monument depicting the late leaders Kim Il-sung, left, and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on December 14, 2013.

Men operate a manual railcar on tracks running along the West Sea Barrage dam in April 2011. The dam cost more than $1.8 billion and took the labor of 30,000 soldiers working from 1981 and 1986 to complete.

A photo of Kim Jong-un and basketball player Dennis Rodman taken by VICE during its March 2013 trip to North Korea showed up as handmade illustration on a bottle of locally-made vodka, seen here on the roof of Rodman's car during his third visit to the country in January 2014.

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, stands near a statue of Kim Il-sung during a tour of the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang in January 2013.

Men stand in a field in Songchon County that was damaged by flooding in July 2012. It was the second year in a row that North Korea increased its staple foods production, but, according to a 2012 UN report, its citizens still lack key proteins and fats in their diets.

A group of journalists walk down a road in front of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket at Sohae Satellite Station in Tongchang-ri on April 8, 2012. The rocket exploded 90 seconds after launch.

North Korea's perennial food shortage reached a crisis point in 2011. Aid workers cited torrential rains, the coldest winter in 60 years, and rising food prices for the situation. Here, a man sits on a cart carrying wood on a road outside the southern town of Kaesong.

North Koreans gather on Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang before a fireworks display to celebrate the official birthday of the late leader in April 2014.

All photos by David Guttenfelder via AP. Follow him on Instagram: @dguttenfelder

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