Singaporean photographer Aram Pan/Courtesy of UPI News Korea

A Singaporean photographer visits communist state 19 times

This guy has something to do with North Korea. After first visiting the Stalinist state in 2013, he went there a total of 19 times. He is Singaporean photographer Aram Pan.

He is well known for his “DPRK 360 Project,”which enables people to experience North Korean life through virtual reality. In 2018, he hosted an art show in Los Angeles and took part in the PyeongChang International Peace Film Festival last August.

Emu Art Space hosted an exhibition of his pictures about North Korea during Dec. 3-8 in 2019 where his post stamps, journals, and postcards were displayed on top of photographs. His pictures are available on his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

To ask why does Pan spend so much personal time and money going to North Korea, the UPI News Korea met him on Dec. 5 at Emu Art Space.

Q: Why you keep going back to North Korea?

A: I once searched for North Korean pictures on Google. The results were all the same – many political pictures. Believing North Korean people would show different faces, I decided to take a flight to the country.

Q: As far as we know, North Korea prohibits filming through drones or airplanes. But you are free from the regulation. Was it possible because of your good relationship with North Korean authorities?

A: Yes, it’s all about trust. North Korea cares much about how outsiders regard them. Once I assure them and get close to them, they let me do many things. It is most important to try to really understand them.

Q: Do many North Korean people suffer from hunger?

A: In rural areas, people are not rich, but I never saw famine. North Korea is progressing. When I first visit there in 2013, there were no lights after sunset. But things were different in 2015.

Q: Do North Korean people take many pictures like selfies?

A: They do take pictures with their smartphones. But selfies are not common. My impression is that people are too shy to take pictures there. They usually take group photos. I think that socialism is a part of the reason for such a culture.

Q: Who were the most memorable people in North Korea?

A: When I took pictures in Cheongjin with blue jeans on, a group of students started to take my pictures. I posed form them and they did so for me. Soon, we took pictures together. It was the most memorable moment.

Q: What is the biggest difference between the two Koreas?

A: It’s about Western culture like relationships, foods, and clothes. In North Korea, Western culture is not widespread compared to South Korea.

Q: What was the yummiest food in North Korea?

A: I have two pieces of stuffs in my mind. One is “Pyongyang Naengmyeon,” a cold noodle dish. The other is roasted seafood. They were more about atmosphere than about just flavors.

Q: What is your philosophy?

A: I try to let people see, rather than hear. Typical photo journalists add explanations about social situations. But I usually just let them think themselves.

Q: Let’s assume that the two Koreas will unite. Will residents in the two countries be able to make friends easily?

A: The goal is attainable. But it would take time for people from the two countries to get used to each other. For example, North Korean people are not allowed to wear miniskirts. The culture is different. But they would be able to overcome them by getting together.


This article is provided by UPI News Korea. _ ED.